Tokyo Olympics: Rory McIlroy among sports stars to support Simone Biles after her withdrawal
McIlroy: "I mean the [mental health] conversation, it's not taboo anymore. People can talk about it just as somebody has a knee or elbow injury, if you don't feel 100 per cent right mentally that's an injury too."
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 29/07/21 11:48am
Rory McIlroy has backed Simone Biles' decision to withdraw from the gymnastics women's team and all-around finals at the Tokyo Olympics and believes it can help more sports stars to prioritise their mental health.
Biles, a four-time Olympic gold medallist and the most successful US gymnast in history, pulled out after one rotation of the women's team final on Tuesday and has since withdrawn from the individual all-around final to "focus on her mental health".
The 24-year-old's decision to publicise her mental health struggles has been widely praised from high-profile names in sport and showbiz, with McIlroy - in Japan representing Ireland in the Men's Golf Competition - the latest to show his support.
"I live in the United States and anything that came on the TV about the Olympics, it was Simone Biles," McIlroy said. "You got 300-whatever-million [people in the USA], so the weight on her shoulders is massive.
"Just as I thought Naomi Osaka was right to do what she did at the French Open and take that time off and get herself in the right place, I one hundred per cent agree with what Simone is doing as well.
the outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before. 🤍— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) July 29, 2021
"I mean you have to put yourself in the best position physically and mentally to be at your best and if you don't feel like you're at that or you're in that position, then you're going to have to make those decisions. I'm certainly very impressed with, especially those two women, to do what they did and put themselves first."
Biles is the most recent athlete to speak out about the pressure and expectation around competing at the highest level, with McIlroy pleased that the stigma around mental health is changing.
"Some people just have thicker skin than some others and can maybe just handle it a little better and are predisposed to handle it better, but some people have to know when enough is enough and I'm glad that at least the conversation has started," McIlroy added.
"There's been a few athletes that have really spoken up, Michael Phelps, Kevin Love, Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles. I mean the conversation, it's not taboo anymore. People can talk about it just as somebody has a knee or elbow injury, if you don't feel 100 per cent right mentally that's an injury too.
"I think in sports there's still this notion of just powering through it and digging in and you're not a competitor unless you get through these things. But then when you hear the most decorated Olympian ever talk about his struggles and then probably the greatest gymnast ever talk about her struggles, then it encourages more people that have felt that way to come out and share how they felt."