SLUCare mental health expert weighs in on Biles’ and Osaka’s Olympic performances

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ST. LOUIS – One day after withdrawing from the team finals in Tokyo, Team USA gymnast Simone Biles withdraws from the individual all-around final in order to focus on her mental health.

USA Gymnastics released a statement saying in part, “We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being.”

Biles is the reigning Olympic all-around champion. Jade Carey will participate in her place. Biles will be evaluated daily to determine if she will compete in next week’s event finals.

Dr. Jamil Neme is a SLUCare primary physician who works with athletes on performance issues and sports psychology. He worked with Team USA at the trials at The Dome at America’s Center.

Neme said multiple factors could have factored into Biles decision to withdraw from the competition.

“It’s no hiding that she’s one of the greatest Olympic athletes that we’ve ever seen, right. And that pressure can mount. And taken too that we’ve had a whole year of delay and having to work through that whole process for an entire extra year and having to deal with a whole pandemic, that can definitely add to the pressures,” he said.

Tennis star Naomi Osaka also took some time off earlier this year due to her mental health and she was very public about that. Neme said seeing other athletes prioritize their mental health could be starting to remove the stigma behind mental health struggles.

“I’m excited for the direction it’s going. For sure. There shouldn’t be a difference between physical health and mental health. It’s interconnected,” he said.

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