Star gymnast Simone Biles withdraws from Olympics finals

The US gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the individual all-around final at the Olympic Games in Tokyo on Wednesday, citing mental health concerns. The four-time Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games champion had already pulled out of the team final the day before. Commentators praise the 24-year-old's move as courageous and hope that she will also become a role model outside the sport.

Open/close all quotes
El Mundo (ES) /

Vulnerability still a taboo

Talking about one's weaknesses requires a lot of strength, El Mundo comments approvingly:

“The courage with which she has made public her mental health problems is just as admirable as her legendary pirouettes in the air. In the collective consciousness, the Olympic Games symbolise the pinnacle of perfection, effort and success. But paradoxically, the most perfect of all gymnasts is showing her vulnerability. With this step, Biles is exposing a taboo in professional sport: the problems that can be caused by success, by the enormous effort expected of athletes, by the commitment and dedication that knows almost no limits.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Body and mind are one

All too often we forget that sport is not just about athletic excellence, The Irish Independent comments:

“Had it been her arm that stopped her, the narrative would have been very different. Both head and body health are needed for the kind of performance we expect from Ms Biles - who, by the way, has already managed to win titles while competing with broken toes and suffering from a kidney stone. ... The separation of mental and physical health is so damaging. If the head was included in 'physical health', people like Ms Biles and Naomi Osaka - the tennis star who withdrew from this year's French Open - wouldn't be subjected to worldwide commentary ranging from congratulating them for their honesty to being accused of being snowflakes.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

A milestone for Generation Z

This statement will help many young people, Dagens Nyheter is convinced:

“Generation Z is constantly accused of being spoiled and pampered. But only a few get everything handed to them on a silver platter; on the contrary, this generation is having to struggle with mental illness more than others. The proportion of young adults who are treated for psychiatric diagnoses has risen exponentially in recent decades. One can only speculate about the causes. ... When Biles and Osaka decide to speak openly about their problems, it can help millions of children and young people understand that this can affect anyone. The US had to settle for silver in the team final. But Biles's openness is worth its weight in gold.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Gold also mandatory in the economy

Handelsblatt hopes Biles's move will inspire people to act the same way even outside the sporting world:

“She can be a role model for many leaders in the business world who suffer from anxiety disorders. This is still a major taboo subject in the managerial world. Shareholders, employees and customers always want to see the smiling face of the winner; here too, gold is mandatory. And so many bosses prefer to take Prozac than to talk about how they're feeling. ... In the pandemic, mental health issues have become even more severe. Burn-outs among managers have risen by 80 percent. Not so long ago these people were 'indispensable', now the watchword is: collect your thoughts, not your medals.”