Milford-born elite gymnast explains what happened to Simone Biles in Tokyo
“I don’t think you can criticize her.”
CINCINNATI (WXIX) - Superstar American gymnast Simone Biles’s stunning withdrawal from the women’s team finals on Tuesday left the Olympics world in shock.
Biles, 24, is widely considered the greatest female gymnast of all time. She cited mental health concerns for the withdrawal, saying the weight of expectations following a sloppy performance during qualifying left her feeling off.
“It’s been a long week,” Biles said. “It’s been a long Olympic process. It’s been a long year. So, just a lot of different variables and I think we’re just too stressed out. We should be out here having fun but that’s not the case.”
For many, it’s an explanation that suffices. Those for whom it doesn’t might heed the words of Amanda Jetter.
“I really just want to urge you to put yourself in her shoes,” Jetter said. “What would you do if millions of eyes were on you?”
Jetter, originally from Milford, is a former elite gymnast herself. She competed in college at Alabama and afterward for Team USA.
She calls Biles “one-of-a-kind,” the sort of athlete who mesmerizes on the mat—and is an even better person off of it.
“It’s so upsetting,” Jetter said of the criticism Biles is now facing for her withdrawal. “That’s why I’m talking to you today. It’s because I don’t think people understand what it takes to be an Olympic-caliber gymnast. I don’t think anyone understands except for the people who went through it.”
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland applauded Biles for prioritizing her “mental wellness over all else” and offered the organization’s full support, according to the Associated Press.
USA Gymnastics women’s program vice-president called Biles’ act “incredibly selfless.”
But Biles still has her detractors.
“I can only imagine what Simone is feeling right now,” Jetter said. “All eyes are on her in the entire world. You know, people are checking their phones to see what Simone did. Could you imagine that pressure of everybody watching what I do today? And then, you have to pull out of the competition for some reason? You don’t sacrifice your mind and your mental health for a gold medal.”
Biles could still compete for individual medals but has yet to commit to doing so.
“Nobody really knows what’s going on except for Simone, her teammates, maybe her parents and her coaches,” Jetter said. “I think people should respect that, honestly, because only she and those people know what’s going on.”
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