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Former Olympians are supporting the decision of superstar gymnast Simone Biles, who withdrew from the individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Games.
USA Gymnastics announced early Wednesday that 24-year-old Biles will instead focus on her mental well-being. Biles’ choice comes one day after she pulled out of the team final.
“We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we’re human, too,” Biles said Tuesday. “So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”
Four-time Olympics medalist Dominique Dawes spoke with Fox News in support of Biles, praising her for stepping back — as she recalled her own experience as a gymnast.
“I think coming from the culture of the sport full of intimidation, silencing and control, I think it’s wonderful that this young athlete, this trailblazer in the sport, is listening to her inner voice,” Dawes said.
Dawes competed from 1992 to 2000 and was part of the gold-winning, “Magnificent Seven” team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games held in Atlanta. She also took home an individual bronze for her floor exercise performance, becoming the first, Black American woman to medal in her sport.
Dawes said she at times “muted” herself when it came to doing what was best for her mentally and physically, as she competed in the sport.
Dawes said she’d verbalized needing a break, though that decision wasn’t always hers to make, saying “you didn’t have control over yourself then.”
“Other people made the decision for you that of which they thought was best for you … I love that Simone is taking back control,” Dawes said.
“For her to do this on this grandiose stage, it takes courage,” she added. “There of course are people who will criticize her, but she needs to do what’s best for her. “The fact that she’s saying, ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ to herself at 24 years old, I applaud her.”
“And it will not only change the culture of the sport, or gymnastics, but also it is bringing to light the importance of mental health.”
Dawes also commended tennis star Naomi Osaka for her decision to take a mental health break from the sport. Osaka dropped out of the French Open in May and skipped Wimbledon to prepare for the Olympics.
Gymnast Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the individual all-around competition.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.
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