Simone Biles' mental health focus 'positive' development, USOPC says

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Simone Biles received support from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) on Wednesday, and the organization hoped changes it made in recent years had some positive impact.

Biles pulled out of the gymnastics team final on Tuesday, and USA Gymnastics said Wednesday she would not compete in the individual all-around, citing mental health concerns. USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland told the Associated Press if the organization had any part in comforting Biles as she made her decision, “then I’m thrilled that it was a safe enough space for her to make that decision.”

“Whether it’s our organization, the changes at (USA Gymnastics) or whether it’s because it’s a conversation that’s been happening in society and in the athlete community overall, it’s positive,” Hirshland said.

Biles said she pulled out to “focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my well-being.” It was unclear whether she would participate in the rest of the events at the Tokyo Olympics.

Hirshland joined the USOPC in 2018 after the details of Larry Nassar’s abuse of female gymnasts came to light. The USOPC and USA Gymnastics underwent massive changes. Hirshland was part of the overhaul at the USOPC, which included a pivot to focus more on athletes’ mental health, more so during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re deploying every resource that’s available to her, and we want to give her space to make choices that are going to be right for her,” Hirshland said of Biles. “We can’t know the answer because none of us live in her shoes.”

Hirshland added: “These are not the USOPC’s medals, these are the athletes’ medals. We can’t lose sight of that. They make these choices. They do the work. They perform, and we are simply here to create an environment in which they can be successful.”

USA Gymnastics said Jade Carey will take Biles’ place in the all-around individual competition on Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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