Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from both the team and individual all-around gymnastic final at the Tokyo games is putting mental health at the forefront of the Olympics.
Barbra Walker, a performance psychologist with Department of Psychiatry and Neuroscience in the UC College of Medicine, told News Center 7′s Kayla Courvell that Biles is likely under an extreme amount of pressure, both physically and mentally.
Walker said that Biles’ family’s inability to watch in person and the fact that she is one of the survivors of sexual abuse in the sport may be contributing to the Biles’ mentality.
“I’ve been watching people talk to her about what happened with Dr. [Larry] Nassar and she’s the only one left on the team that happened to,” Walker said.
Walker said Biles’ decision to not compete to avoid potential injury was wise.
“When someone gets distracted or stressed, they brace their muscles, so anytime we have a negative or anxious thought, we contract muscle fibers, we start breathing shallow, so if she was distracted or braced, she really could have injured herself,” Walker said.
Walker said Biles’ decision to prioritize her mental health is an important lesson for athletes of all levels.
“The messaging we give people like ‘toughen it up attitude’ that’s been around for a long time; it would be nice to untangle it,” Walker said.
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