Four-time Olympic gold medallist Simone Biles has reacted to the widespread support she has received after withdrawing from Thursday’s all-around final.
The American gymnast pulled out of the competition saying she needed to prioritise her mental health, a move that has brought praise from high-profile figures in sport, entertainment and politics.
The 24-year-old said the support had shown her she was “more than my accomplishments and gymnastics”.
Biles, who is a sexual assault survivor, spoke to the media after the US took silver in the team final following her withdrawal from that event, of the need to “protect our minds and our bodies,” adding: “We are people, at the end of the day.”
British gymnast Max Whitlock showed his support, saying: “You’ve pushed boundaries time and time again. Rest up and take time.”
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba tweeted his support for Biles, saying her decision to withdraw was a “moment of undeniable strength”.
American pop star Justin Bieber, who himself cut short his 2017 world tour citing anxiety and exhaustion, said he was proud of the athlete for her decision.
“Nobody will ever understand the pressures you face!” he posted on Instagram.
“People thought I was crazy for not finishing the Purpose tour but it was the best thing I could have done for my mental health!! So proud of you Simone Biles,” he continued.
Susan Rice, a senior advisor to President Joe Biden, also tweeted her praise, saying: “Thank you to the #GOAT Simone Biles for reminding us that mental health comes first.”
Sylvester Turner, the mayor of her home town of Houston, also praised the Texan.
“You are so much more than your accomplishments and gymnastics,” he said. “You are an amazing person. If you never dance, flip, or swing on the uneven bars again you will forever be an American and international champion. Just be happy!”
Biles has yet to confirm whether she will compete in the individual apparatus finals, which start on Sunday, saying she will take “each day as it comes”.