When Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles unexpectedly withdrew from the Olympic Games individual all-around final to “focus on her mental health,” her outing sparked a worldwide reaction and pop star Justin Bieber showed support for the 24-year-old gymnast by sharing handwriting.
USA Gymnastics shared Biles’ decision to quit world competition in a declaration on Twitter Wednesday. The announcement came after the athlete pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics women’s team final the day before. Biles only completed one jump before telling her teammates that she would not compete alongside them for the remainder of the games.
His decision was met with mixed responses as some wanted the American athlete to continue while others applauded his exit.
Showing support for his decision, Bieber wrote a heartfelt message to Biles on Instagram.
“No one will ever understand the pressures you face! I know we don’t know each other but I’m so proud of the decision to step down,” the “Holy” frontman wrote in support of Biles.
“It’s that simple – what does it mean to win the whole world but lose your soul,” he added, quoting Mark 8:36. “Sometimes our nays are more powerful than our yeses. When what you normally like starts to steal your joy, it’s important that we take a step back to assess why.”
Bieber continued, “People thought I was crazy that I didn’t finish the tour but it was the best thing I could have done for my sanity !! So proud of you @simonebiles.”
The Canadian star made headlines in 2017 when he canceled the remaining dates of his Purpose tour to focus on his well-being. Since then, Bieber has grown into an outspoken Christian and actively shares his faith on social media.
Olympic swimmer turned commentator Michael Phelps has also been transparent about his own mental health issues. He too openly supported Biles, saying his story “broke my heart.”
“I hope this is an eye-opening experience… an opportunity for us to get on board, and even blow this mental health issue even wider open,” Phelps shared.
Biles told reporters on Tuesday she decided to withdraw from the team final and all-around because of the tight corners.
“[My teammates] seen a bit in practice … have a bit of twisties “, Biles told reporters.
According to medical experts, twisties refer to a mental block that can be felt by a gymnast when in mid-air during a twist skill.
“When someone has problems, there’s a disconnect between the brain and the body,” said Jamie Shapiro, Ph.D., a mental performance trainer who is also co-director of the Masters in Sports Psychology program and of performance at the University of Denver, at Health.com.
“The body knows what to do and motor programs are stored in the brain, but the brain has difficulty accessing these motor programs,” she explained.
Shapiro said the disconnection between the brain and the body can be very dangerous and cause an athlete to experience “a loss of control over the movement” while in the air.
The former club and college gymnast said the event may have “physical and mental implications.” Not only will the twisties render a gymnast unable to perform the skills they sought to perform, the inability to perform the task can “cause anxiety, exacerbating the mental block,” she added.
Other gymnasts on social media have shared their own experiences with the twisties.
“As someone who’s had the twisties once, that’s what made me fracture my back and end my career,” said a former gymnast of the same name. @switchhalf wrote. “I was only a level 10, and had no plans to continue after high school. My back still bothers me to this day, Simone could have done a lot worse.”
Another gymnast, using the Twitter handle @kellyymcl added: “Every gymnast who’s ever struggled with twisties and said they’re crazy is crying with you SB. the sport is scary, far from easy, and life is about more than pushing your body to do things your brain can’t do on any given day.