Tokyo 2020 - ‘We can save more athletes’ by Simone Biles speaking up about mental health - Greg Rutherford
The London 2012 long jump gold medallist says athletes are not “superhuman” and has thanked Biles for talking openly about not being in the right mental state to compete at the moment in Japan. The American gymnastics star will not take part in tomorrow’s individual all-around competition. You want it? We have it. Stream every Olympic event live on discovery+.
'Nobody understands' - Rutherford backs Biles over withdrawal
Simone Biles will help save more athletes by speaking up about her mental health, according to former Olympic long jump champion Greg Rutherford.
The American gymnastics star has withdrawn from Thursday’s all-around competition, after she pulled out after one vault during Tuesday’s team competition, so that she can focus on feeling better.
“People are human. People are very quick to say to become a champion, it’s 30% talent and 70% in the mind, but actually nobody really thinks about looking after the mind,” said Rutherford, who is in Tokyo for Eurosport.
“Athletes aren’t super human. We’re fantastic at doing a very niche physical activity. What we need to do is safeguard them as much as we can and really work on what’s going on with mental health. With Simone Biles, I thank her for bringing it to the forefront so that we can save more athletes.
Every four years, five in this situation, you have an Olympic Games - people’s livelihoods, people’s careers are made and broken in these times.
"If you have an off day, it doesn’t matter who you are, it can go really, really wrong and your life can spiral out of control, especially when people from external sources are putting so much pressure on you, because when they put more pressure on, you add more pressure to yourself.
'I didn't want to cost the team a medal' - Biles explains why she pulled out of team event
“Nobody understands the Olympic journey of each individual athlete. All of them would have been very different. All of them would have had serious hardships at times.
“I think of my own career, my first Olympics was in 2008. Just before I left, I had a situation where I had a bereavement in the family. I lost a really important member in my family and I still travelled out to the Games. I didn’t get to go to the funeral, I was in a very dark place.
“I travelled out to the Olympic Games, managed to make the final, then the morning of the final I woke up in a really bad place with regards to illness and my mental health. I ended up crashing out in the Olympic final and the following night rushed to hospital because I’d collapsed back in the village.”
It should be about having fun but it's not always - Biles on gymnastics and the Olympics
Double Olympic track cycling champion and fellow Eurosport pundit Joanna Rowsell agrees with Rutherford, and says there will have been an immense amount of pressure on Biles, given her standing as a four-time Olympic champion and global superstar.
“She has been talked about so much in the build-up, but it’s brave and the hard thing to do to say ‘no, this isn’t okay’," she said.
Second time around, as an Olympic champion everyone wants to beat you, or they expect you to win everything. Everyone is quick to jump on a less than perfect performance.
“You can never go under the radar ever again, the pressure for that second Games mainly comes from yourself but you’re the one who wants to win. It’s a pressure cooker of all sorts of internal and external pressures.”
Keri-anne Payne, Britain’s marathon swimming silver medallist from Beijing 2008, was also part of the conversation on Eurosport and believes Biles is raising important issues.
“She isn’t super-human, people like to think athletes are. It’s been a tough year for everyone. I hope that she’s OK," she said.
“To stand up and stay, actually I’m not feeling it right now, this just doesn’t feel right, I think she is a role model for the world, you can’t be everything all of the time, sometimes you just need to take a break from things.”
'Disastrous!' - Biles has nightmare vault before shock withdrawal
Watch every unmissable moment live from Tokyo 2020 across Eurosport, the Eurosport app and discovery+. Download the Eurosport app for iOS and Android now.