Simone Biles has thanked fellow gymnasts for their “love and support” as she considers whether to continue to play a further part in the Tokyo Olympics.
The four-time Rio gold medallist withdrew from her scheduled defence of the women’s all-around final on Friday, citing a desire to protect her mental health.
Biles is as yet undecided on whether she will compete in any of the four individual finals for which she has qualified, and which take place next week.
The 24-year-old American wrote on social media on Friday: “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.”
Despite qualifying for four finals, Biles looked some way from her best, and on Wednesday she pulled out of the women’s team final after making a mistake on her vault in the first rotation.
Some reports in the United States suggest Biles will elect to compete in the beam and bars finals, but not vault or floor, which would correspond with her intimation that she is suffering from a lack of confidence known in the sport as ‘twisting’.
The phenomenon, to which a number of gymnasts have admitted being afflicted, relates to issues of spatial awareness and rhythm, and self-doubt over the ability to perform particular moves or routines.
If Biles does withdraw from the floor competition, Great Britain’s 16-year-old Jennifer Gadirova will make the final as first reserve. Gadirova’s twin sister, Jessica, has already qualified for the final.
US team-mate and three-time Olympian Sam Mikulak, who has spoken previously of his own mental health concerns, paid tribute to Biles after competing in the men’s all-around final on Thursday – an event Biles watched from the stands.
Mikulak said: “We’ve had some conversations. She seems like she’s doing what’s best for her. It’s awesome to see that she’s gotten to go against the pressure of society and do what’s best for herself.
“I am really proud of her for prioritising mental health and making sure that everyone knows and understands that we’re not just athletes.
“We’re human beings, and sometimes it’s too much, and when that’s the case you have to do what’s best for you.”