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Biles shows courage in Olympics withdrawal

We are used to seeing great athletes powering through obstacles and setbacks, even physical injuries, on their way to greatness. We celebrate them for their courage.

But we rarely see them struggling with mental pressure and self doubt, the kind that can be more crippling than the kneed injury that Tiger Woods had when he won the U.S. Open in 2008, or the badly injured ankle that Kerri Strug had when she performed the final vault to clinch the team gymnastics gold medal for the USA in the 1996 Olympics.

On Tuesday Simone Biles, possibly the all-time greatest women’s gymnast, pulled out of team competition after a bad vault. She acknowledged that the pressures of carrying the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team’s aspirations had become too much affecting her performance, forcing her to pull out rather than hurt her team’s chances or her own safety.

The idea that highly trained, highly skilled athletes could have doubts and anxieties affecting their performance is beginning to become apparent to fans around the world. Earlier this year, top-ranked tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open and skipped Wimbeldon due to anxiety over speaking with the media after matches. Now Biles has decided to deal with her doubts instead of pressing through them, a decision that is best for her mental health.

Their courage opens the door for discussions about mental health and its effect on other aspects of life. We applaud Biles for her decision.

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