IOC chief Thomas Bach said US superstar Simone Biles had shown “Olympic spirit at its best” on Friday by cheering on her fellow gymnasts despite being sidelined with mental problems in Tokyo.
Bach said Biles had shown great courage by admitting she was not mentally fit to compete, before turning up in the stands as teammate Sunisa Lee succeeded her as all-around champion.
The four-time gold medallist’s Games now hang in the balance as she struggles with the “twisties”, a mental block that affects gymnasts’ judgement while spinning in mid-air.
“I can only say we are with her and we wish her well,” Bach told news agency journalists in Tokyo, adding that he spoke to Biles after she withdrew during the team competition on Tuesday. She later pulled out of the individual all-around.
“I’m really admiring how she’s handling the situation,” added Bach. “On the one hand she admits to have this problem. This is already courageous. Who one year ago would have admitted to say I have mental health problems?
“And at the same time, then cheering on their teammates and then being there and supporting when her successor is crowned in the all-around final.
“This is great human quality and this is Olympic spirit at its best.”
Mental health has been a key concern at the Games, after athletes had to prepare during the coronavirus pandemic and are living in a strict bubble in Tokyo.
Biles is not the only big name at the Games to admit to problems: Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka returned to action in Tokyo after a break to benefit her mental health.