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Citing mental health needs, Simone Biles decided to step away from Team USA’s final group competition. Good for her, we say. (Credit: Agência Brasil Fotografias, Wikimedia Commons)

We already know Simone Biles is the G.O.A.T. — her latest move only confirms that.

Citing the importance of her mental health, the internationally renowned athlete decided to step away from Team USA’s final group competition. “Whenever you get in a high-stress situation, you kind of freak out. I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being,” Biles said in an interview. “We have to protect our body and our mind.”

She added, “It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.”

It was undoubtedly a difficult decision for the 24-year-old athlete, especially considering she had to make it on an international stage. Ultimately, Biles pulled her inspiration from fellow global sports superstar and Black woman athlete Naomi Osaka, the tennis player who quit the French Open amid bouts of depression and pressures to participate in press conferences.

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Competitive gymnastics have similarly weighed down Biles, she admitted. “I feel like I’m … not having as much fun — and this Olympic Games I wanted it to be for myself, and it felt like I was still doing [it] for other people. And that hurts my heart, that doing what I love has been taken away from me,” she said.

Biles also noted that she and other sports stars like her are “not just athletes, we’re people at the end of the day,” and that “there’s more to life than just gymnastics.”

She has several upcoming individual events, which she presently plans to participate in. 

Women often feel pressure to perform above and beyond in their professional lives — especially lately, as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on work/life balance. This is especially true for Black women. So for Biles to take this stand on her own behalf, at such a critical time in her career and amid such scrutiny, is not only commendable — it’s exemplary.

And we’re rooting for her every step, flip or jump of the way.

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Nat Jaconetty is the founder of Herb & Seed, a plant-based, sustainable meal delivery service based in Los Angeles.

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