Kawagoe (Japan) (AFP)
Former world number one golfer Rory McIlroy backed Simone Biles against her Olympic withdrawal on Thursday, saying the superstar gymnast was “100%” right to prioritize her mental health.
The Northern Irishman, speaking after shooting a two-under-69 in the first round of the Olympic golf tournament, said Biles faced “massive” pressure ahead of the Tokyo Games.
“I live in the United States and everything that was on TV, on NBC or in commercials about the Olympics was Simone Biles – it was the Olympics Simone Biles, right? McIlroy said.
“The weight on his shoulders is enormous. “
American star Biles, one of the faces of the Tokyo Olympics, abruptly retired from the team final on Tuesday before retiring from Thursday’s all-around final over concerns for his mental well-being.
The gymnast’s withdrawal has been hailed as a watershed moment that could help de-stigmatize mental health issues in elite athletes.
McIlroy said the willingness of athletes like the great American swimmer Michael Phelps and Biles to openly address mental health issues would help change attitudes about how the subject is viewed in the world of sport in the future.
“I think in sport there’s always this notion of just like going through it and digging and you’re not a competitor unless you get through those things,” McIlroy said.
“But then when you hear the most decorated Olympian of all time (Phelps) talking about her struggles, and then probably the greatest gymnast of all time talking about her struggles, it encourages more people who felt that way to share what they felt. “
McIlroy compared Biles to Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, who retired from Roland Garros earlier this year after opening up about her battle with depression.
“And just as I thought Naomi Osaka was right to do what she did at Roland Garros and take that free time and put herself in the right place, I 100% agree with what Simone is doing. also.
“You have to put yourself in the best physical and mental position and be your best and if you don’t feel like you are in that position then you are going to have to make these decisions… I ‘I’m certainly very impressed that these two women do what they did and put themselves first. “
© 2021 AFP