Gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday, a day after she shocked the world by pulling out of the team event and put a sharp focus on mental health at the Games.
American Biles will be evaluated to see if she can take part in the individual apparatus competitions, USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Twitter.
Biles made the decision so she “can focus on her mental health,” the organization said, adding that it supported her “wholeheartedly.”
Athletes such as tennis superstar Naomi Osaka and now Biles have highlighted the immense pressures on them, raising questions about whether global sporting figures get enough support for mental health.
Osaka lost in her Olympic singles event on Tuesday, her first tournament since pulling out of the French Open in May, when she said she had been suffering from depression for nearly three years.
The 24-year-old Biles first sent shock waves through the Summer Games on Tuesday when she dropped out of the team competition after receiving a low mark in her opening vault.
She had said the pressure of living up to expectations and her quest for a record gold medal haul had left her no choice.
“We have to protect our mind and our body rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do,” Biles told reporters.
“More could be done” on athlete mental health, the spokesperson for the International Olympic Commission, Mark Adams, said. He said mental health remained a big issue and that it was a matter the organization had been working on for some time.
Elsewhere in Tokyo, champion women made a splash as Australian Ariarne Titmus, American Katie Ledecky and Japan’s Yui Ohashi clinched gold medals in swimming.
Their powerful showing underscored how women have emerged as the most commanding figures of the first week of the Tokyo Olympics.
The Games are taking place without spectators and under a state of emergency in Tokyo, unprecedented measures in the history of the modern Olympics. Tokyo reported more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases, the highest since the pandemic began, and a new state of emergency was expected in three prefectures neighboring the capital city.
Organizers have reported 169 COVID-19 cases related to the Games, a tiny number given the tens of thousands of people visiting for the event.
In the pool, Titmus won a second gold medal at her first Olympics in the 200 meters freestyle.
“I’m just from a small town in Tasmania and it just goes to show if you believe you can do something, you can 100% do it if you work for it,” Titmus told Australia’s ABC News.
Ledecky took gold in the 1500m freestyle, the first time the event has been held for women. Diversity is a focus for the Tokyo Olympics with women’s events being added in other sports, including boxing.
Titmus and Ledecky are expected to meet again in the 800m freestyle on Saturday, in which the American is heavily favored, and they will be on opposite sides in the 4x200m relay.
Japan’s Ohashi also claimed her second gold medal in the 200m medley after victory in the 400m medley on Sunday.
She pipped American Alex Walsh in the final freestyle leg of the race to the delight of her Japanese team mates in the spectator-free arena.
“Seems like a dream,” said Ohashi. “It doesn’t feel real. In the last 15 it was really hard, my legs were really hurting but I just kept kicking.”
Meanwhile, Daiki Hashimoto maintained Japan’s grip on the Olympic men’s gymnastics all-around crown late Wednesday, clinching victory with a spectacular high bar routine.
Leading going into the final rotation Xiao Ruoteng, the 2017 world all-around champion, had looked poised to reclaim the title for China but instead settled for silver with his team filing an inquiry over what they viewed as a low score.
Elsewhere, Japan’s double world champion judoka Chizuru arai triumphed in the women’s under-70-kg category on Wednesday, beating Michaela Polleres of Austria in a grueling final and earning the host nation its sixth judo gold.
The Japanese team have won judo gold medals for five straight days and are just two short of their record of eight, set in Athens in 2004.
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