KEY POINTS

  • Simone Biles withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics team gymnastics final Tuesday over mental health concerns
  • Michael Phelps showed support for her decision, saying the competition can be "overwhelming"
  • Biles' former teammate Aly Raisman is proud of her for focusing on her mental health

Simone Biles has the support of fans and fellow athletes after she decided to withdraw from a Tokyo Olympics event.

The 24-year-old gymnast withdrew from the women's gymnastics Olympic team competition Tuesday for her mental health. Former Olympian Michael Phelps, who has been vocal about athletes needing to protect their mental health, showed his support to Biles as he spoke about the pressure athletes are under during the Games.

"The Olympics are overwhelming. There’s a lot of emotions that go into it. There’s a lot of … I mean, I can talk to you about this for an hour," Phelps told NBC's Mike Tirico Wednesday, as quoted by Sporting News

"I think athletes and Olympic athletes in general, I mean, talking about weight of gold. We need someone who we can trust. Somebody that can let us be ourselves and listen. Allow us to become vulnerable, somebody who's not going to try and fix us," added Phelps, who is the most decorated Olympian in history.

"You know, we carry a lot of things, a lot of weight on our shoulders. And it's challenging, especially when we have the lights on us and all of these expectations that are being thrown on top of us. So it broke my heart."

Biles' former teammate Aly Raisman also expressed her support for the younger gymnast's decision and said she was proud of her for focusing on her mental health.

"You know, I felt like I had a lot of pressure and that was nothing compared to what Simone has on her right now," Raisman told People. "Simone has more pressure than any other gymnast I've ever seen in my lifetime. And it's a lot. And I think that it's a bigger conversation of, you know, there needs to be better systems out there to support the mental health of athletes and to help athletes navigate how much pressure they're under."

Raisman also gave a reminder that winning gold is not easy at all and praised Biles for being brave enough to show her vulnerable side.

"From my perspective, when I was watching the lead-up to the games, it almost seemed like people forgot how hard winning a gold medal is. And, you know, my coach told me when I was younger, that being number one in the world or being favored to win is the hardest position to be in the world as an athlete, because there's so much pressure on you," she added. "I think it's really brave of her to vulnerably share that the reason why she didn't finish the competition, I think it takes so much courage to do that."

Biles withdrew from the final after competing in just one rotation on vault, where she stumbled on the landing. Team USA secured silver after Jordan Chiles stepped in for Biles.

"We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we're human, too," Biles said, according to The Associated Press. "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 has won six Olympic medals so far in two appearances, including four golds, one silver and one bronze. She is also the gymnast with the most world gymnastics championship medals (25) and most world championship gold medals (19).

Simone Biles' dramatic exit from the Olympic team gymnastics final over concerns for her mental health could be a catalyst for wider change, experts say Simone Biles' dramatic exit from the Olympic team gymnastics final over concerns for her mental health could be a catalyst for wider change, experts say Photo: AFP / Loic VENANCE