UPDATED: 6:30 a.m. ET, July 28
Originally published at 8:43 a.m. ET, July 27
After leaving the door open for a possible return to the Olympics, Simone Biles on Wednesday extended her break from competition in Tokyo in an effort to prioritize her mental health. The update came about 24 hours after it was first reported that Biles was withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics to cope with what a USA women’s gymnastics team coach referred to as a “mental issue.”
Biles and Team USA originally hinted she could be back competing in the all-around final on Thursday before officially deciding against it, the Washington Post reported. However, there is still a chance she could return to competing at the Olympics. It’s just unclear when that would be.
“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement released on Wednesday. “Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”
Biles previously attempted to clear up any confusion about the reason why she withdrew from the women’s gymnastics team final on Tuesday. She also vowed to return to competition, debunking earlier reports that she had withdrawn from the Olympics as a whole.
While it was reported that the 24-year-old gymnastics legend had injured herself in competition on Tuesday, Biles said her injury was actually mental and not physical.
NBC’s Carl Quintanilla reported that Biles told him that she had injured her “pride” and not her leg.
“After the performance I did I just didn’t want to go on,” Biles said.
She, like an earlier statement from USA Gymnastics, also left open the possibility of her return to Olympics competition.
Biles also told BBC correspondent that she was “dealing with some things internally that will get fixed in the next few days.” She reportedly told Natalie Pirks that she would compete on Thursday.
UPI sports reports Al Butler reported that a Team USA coach confirmed Biles’ issue was “mental.”
Previously, it was reported that Biles, who is widely regarded as being the greatest gymnast of all time, withdrew completely from competing in the Tokyo Olympics after suffering an apparent leg injury on Tuesday. But the official statement from USA Gymnastics suggested there still could be a chance for Biles’ return, casting doubt on the earlier reports to the contrary.
Biles appeared to injure herself while competing in the vault. Photos showed her landing awkwardly before leaving the floor with a team doctor.
ESPN reported: “Biles returned several minutes later with her right leg wrapped. She took off her bar grips, and hugged teammates Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles before putting on a jacket and sweatpants.”
The unverified Inside Olympics Twitter account, which boasts more than 65,000 followers, tweeted without proof that Biles withdrew from the team final for non-injury reasons.
USA Gymnastics said in a statement that Biles “will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions.” And NBC, which was cited by Inside Gymnastics, only reported that Biles was out for the team final and did not entirely rule her out for the remainder of the Olympics.
Biles’ return would boost the chances of Team USA winning a fourth straight Olympic gold medal in women’s gymnastics.
Using humor to offset the apparent mental anguish she must have been in, Biles first hinted in a social media post from Monday that she was feeling pressure to win at Tokyo.
“I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times,” Biles wrote in an Instagram post. “I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The olympics is no joke!”
While Biles’ struggles are mental, a recent interview with the New York Times underscored the physical toll that gymnastics take on gymnasts. Biles described the physical pain she feels as “unreal” and said the happiest moment of her career was “probably my time off,” not winning.
Biles became the winningest and most decorated gymnast of all time when she won the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. She also took home four gold medals in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
This is a developing story that will be updated as additional information becomes available.