‘I was on the verge of tears. It was a lot of pressure’: Simone Biles’ teammates reveal the stress they felt having to fill her shoes following gymnast’s shock exit from the Olympic team final
- Biles’ best friend and home gym teammate Jordan Chiles, 20, and gymnast Grace McCallum, 18, spoke about her shock decision on the Today show
- Chiles was forced to fill Biles’ spot on two additional events in the team final on Tuesday, stepping into her place on the uneven bars and the balance beam
- McCallum, who was the first Team USA gymnast to compete on the uneven bars after Biles’ shock announcement admitted she was ‘on the verge of tears’
- Biles told her teammates she was pulling out of the competition after the first event, having made a shock error on the vault that cost the team several points
- The 24-year-old flubbed her first event in the team final competition in Tokyo on Tuesday, bailing out of the skill mid-way through and stumbling on her landing
- She was supposed to execute a Yurchenko vault with two-and-a-half twists, but bailed out at the last second and only performed one-and-a-half twists
- Team USA ended up in silver medal position behind Russia’s athletes
Simone Biles Olympic teammates have defended her shock decision to pull out of the team and all-around finals in order to ‘focus on her mental health’, insisting that the gymnast is ‘not a quitter’ – despite admitting that they were left on the ‘verge of tears’ when she suddenly pulled out of the team event on Tuesday.
Jordan Chiles, 20, and Grace McCallum, 18, spoke out about the 24-year-old’s sensational withdrawal from two Olympic finals during an interview on the Today show on Wednesday – moments after it was announced that Biles would not defend her all-around title in Thursday’s final.
Chiles, who trains alongside Biles at her home gym in Houston, Texas, praised her teammate for putting her health and safety above all else, while insisting that she doesn’t have any bad feeling towards her for pulling out of the finals.
‘She’s Simone for a reason. She’s not a quitter. You will never see Simone go out there and not do what she knows she can do,’ the Texan told Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie.
Speaking out: Simone Biles’ teammates Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles have defended her decision to withdraw from the team and all-around finals at the Olympics in Tokyo
Chiles, 20, who trains with Biles are her home gym in Texas, praised her for prioritizing her mental health, despite admitting she was left reeling by her decision to withdraw
Struggle: McCallum, 18, who was the first athlete to compete on uneven bars after Biles’ shock announcement, admitted that she was ‘on the verge of tears’ because of the added pressure
However, Chiles did admit that she was left reeling by the news of Biles’ withdrawal from the final – particularly as she was subsequently forced to compete in two additional events, the uneven bars and the balance beam, in order to fill the gap left by her teammate.
‘I knew in my body that I could pull out everything I had,’ she said, adding: ‘I did have to fill some humungous shoes but I did it for a reason, I did it for her. And she was there with us the whole time.’
Meanwhile McCallum, who was the first US athlete to compete on the uneven bars in the minutes after Biles told her teammates that she was pulling out of the final, confessed that she was left ‘on the verge of tears’ by the news – as well as the added pressure that was placed on her and the other two remaining Team USA athletes as a result.
‘It was a lot of pressure, my heart was beating about a million miles an hour and I was on the verge of tears,’ the gymnast shared. ‘I just knew I had to do my gymnastics, nothing more, nothing less.’
In Biles’ absence, two of her teammates were forced to step in and take her place in the uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise events, with Chiles taking on the first two, while Sunisa Lee, 18, filled her spot on the floor.
Following the first event – vault – Team USA was trailing the Russian Olympic Committee by a fairly large margin, which was not helped by Biles’ uncharacteristically low score of 13.766.
They managed to close the gap by putting up impressive performance on both the uneven bars and the balance beam – narrowing Russia’s lead to just a few tenths of a point – but their hopes of overtaking their rivals came crashing down in the final moments of the competition when Chiles suffered a fall on the floor exercise.
The US ended up finishing more than three points behind the Russian gymnasts, who surged to victory with a final score of 169.528 over their rivals’ end result of 166.096.
Biles’ decision not to defend her Olympic all-around title in Thursday’s final was announced on Wednesday morning in a statement shared by USA Gymnastics – however the gymnast has not yet revealed whether she plans to compete in the other four individual finals that she qualified for.
When asked by Hoda, 56, and Savannah, 49, whether they hope she will compete, both Chiles and McCallum admitted that they would ‘of course’ like to see her take a chance at more Olympic medals, but noted that they ‘just want what is best for her’.
Chiles also admitted that she tried to offer encouragement to Biles while she was still deciding whether or not to compete in Thursday’s all-around competition, revealing that she told her friend: ‘This is your moment.’
‘I was there for her, I supported her, I did try to tell her, “Look, you know how to do everything, this is you, this is your moment, it’s all up to you,'” she shared.
‘I really can’t say a lot because she has to tell her own story, but all I know is I’m going to support her no matter what. I am her teammate, I am her best friend, like she said. This is the moment that I think that I truly realize that I’ve gotten so much closer to her than I really thought. She’s my ride or die. I will forever be by her side.’
Although their third teammate, Lee, did not appear on the Today show, the gymnast spoke out about the controversy surrounding their second-place finish in a tweet on Tuesday night, writing: ‘Never been prouder to be apart of such an amazing team with an amazing group of girls.
‘We stepped up when we needed to and did this for ourselves. We do not owe anyone a gold medal, we are WINNERS in our hearts.’
The moment that Biles delivered the shock news of her Olympic team final withdrawal to her devastated teammates was caught on camera – revealing how the gymnast urged her fellow athletes to carry on in her stead, telling them to ‘go and kick a**’ without her.
Simone was filmed telling them that she was ‘sorry’, but insisting that they were ‘going to do great’ because they had ‘been training for this their whole lives’.
‘Look, you guys go out there and do what you’re trained to do,’ she said. ‘It is what it is. I’m sorry, I love you guys, but you’re going to be just fine.’
News: Video from inside the Olympic gymnastics arena captured the moment that Biles told her teammates she was withdrawing from the final
Shock: Her teammates, Sunisa Lee, 18, McCallum, and Chiles seemed stunned by the news – and they quickly voiced their fear about going on without her
Speaking about the moment on NBC, Today host Hoda Kotb revealed that the trio was left close to tears after Simone delivered the news – and they were seen on camera reeling from her announcement, before seemingly voicing their fears about carrying on the competition without her – as well as expressing concern for her wellbeing.
Insisting that she would ‘be fine’, the sporting superstar then pulled each of her teammates into a hug, before reassuring them that they would be ‘fine’ without her.
‘You guys have trained your whole entire lives for this, it’s fine,’ she insisted, before urging them to focus on their own performances and not worry about her.
‘I’ve been to an Olympics, I’ll be fine, this is your first,’ she continued. ‘Go out there and kick a**, OK?’
Simone stunned spectators and competitors alike in Tokyo on Tuesday when she flubbed her vault in the opening minutes of the competition, and then announced her withdrawal just moments later – having been expected to lead Team USA to its third consecutive gold medal win.
Following the end of the team final, Simone took to Instagram to praise her teammates ‘bravery’, while thanking them for ‘stepping up when she couldn’t’.
‘I’m SO proud of these girls right here,’ she wrote, while sharing an image of the four-woman squad proudly posing with their silver medals.
‘You girls are incredibly brave & talented! I’ll forever be inspired by your determination to not give up and to fight through adversity!
‘They stepped up when I couldn’t. thanks for being there for me and having my back! forever love y’all.’
During a post-event press conference, Simone admitted that she felt as if she had ‘robbed’ her teammates of a real shot at the gold after making a severe error during her vault, which resulted in an unusually low score – allowing Russia to take the early lead.
‘It’s really unfortunate to have a score like that go up there for the team,’ she said. ‘I feel I robbed them… We could have been a little bit higher in the rankings.
Shortly after the team final came to a close, Simone took to Instagram to praise her teammates for ‘fighting through adversity’ and ‘stepping up when she couldn’t’
Despite the devastating upset, Simone and her teammates, Jordan (left), Grace (center right), and Sunisa (right), were all smiles as they received their silver medals
‘I didn’t do my job. They came out and they stepped up. They did what they needed to do.’
Simone, who made history earlier this year when she became the first-ever female gymnast to perform the incredibly risky and complicated Yurchenko double pike vault, stunned spectators when she made a very uncharacteristic error in the team final, bailing out of the skill she had planned to do while in mid-air.
The gymnastics GOAT was supposed to execute a Yurchenko vault with two-and-a-half twists, but bailed out at the last second and only performed one-and-a-half twists, resulting in a much lower starting score.
To add insult to injury, Simone’s knees then buckled on the landing, propelling her towards the mat – although she narrowly avoided falling to the ground.
Her resulting score – 13.766 – is the lowest she has received in years. During qualifications, she received a score of 15.183.
Simone’s shock withdrawal came just moments after she was seen making her way out of the arena with her coach and a member of the medical staff – sparking fears that she had sustained an injury during her wobbly vault landing.
However, upon the announcement of her withdrawal from the competition, it was revealed that Simone was not injured – and she later revealed that she had made the decision out of a need to ‘focus on her mental health’ and out of fear that she could cost her teammates their shot at winning a medal in the competition.
‘To focus on my wellbeing,’ she told reporters of her reasons for pulling out of the competition following a shock flub on the vault, echoing the statement issued by tennis pro Naomi Osaka, 23, when she pulled out of the French Open earlier this year because of her own mental health struggles.
Shrugging, Simone added: ‘And you know, there’s more to life than just gymnastics.
Biles’ decision to pull out of the competition came just moments after she suffered a very uncharacteristic stumble on the vault
The gymnast – who had been expected to lead the US to gold in the team event – withdrew from the lineup after flubbing her vault in the opening minutes of the team final
‘It is very unfortunate that it has to happen at this stage because I definitely wanted this Olympics to go a little bit better but again, we’ll take it one day at a time and we’re going to see how the rest goes.’
The gymnast also insisted that her decision to pull out of the competition after just one event – when she was due to take part in all four – was made, in part, to help her team, saying that she ‘didn’t want to risk the team medal’ with her ‘screw up’.
Biles has since hinted that the mental health issues she is struggling with are related to the abuse she suffered at the hands of pedophile national team doctor Larry Nassar by re-posting a statement of support that referred to the trauma
‘I thought it was best that these girls took over the job which they absolutely did,’ she continued, saying that the shock upset made them ‘stronger’ as a team. ‘They are Olympic silver medalists now and they should be really proud of themselves now for how well they did last minute.’
Despite claiming a silver medal alongside her teammates, who were left on the verge of tears when Simone withdrew, the sporting superstar – who is widely known as the GOAT thanks to her impressive list of accolades – insisted the second-place finish was ‘nothing to do with her’, instead giving full credit to her fellow Team USA athletes, Jordan, Sunisa, and Grace.
‘This medal is all of them and the coaches and nothing to do with me,’ she said.
She added: ‘I have to focus on my mental health. I just think mental health is more prevalent in sports right now… we have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do.’
She admitted that her confidence has taken a serious knock as a result of her mental health issues, confessing: ‘I don’t trust myself as much anymore… maybe it’s getting older. There were a couple of days when everybody tweets you and you feel the weight of the world.
‘We’re not just athletes, we’re people at the end of the day and sometimes you just have to step back. ‘I didn´t want to go out and do something stupid and get hurt. ‘I feel like a lot of athletes speaking up has really helped. It’s so big, it´s the Olympic Games, at the end of the day we don´t want to be carried out of there on a stretcher.
‘You have to be there 100 per cent or 120 per cent or you’re going to hurt yourself.’
Michael Phelps says Simone Biles’ Olympic exit ‘broke his heart’ and athletes need more support and ‘someone they can trust’ to protect their mental health
- Biles, 24, announced on Tuesday she was withdrawing from the team competition and then on Wednesday withdrew from the solo event
- It’s unclear if she will compete again at this year’s Olympic Games
- Phelps won 28 Olympic medals before retiring after the 2016 Rio Games
- He has since revealed he was battling depression and contemplated suicide while competing for Team USA
- He said Biles and all Olympic athletes are ‘human too’ and ‘it’s OK not to be OK’
- Biles has suggested her decision was prompted by the horrific sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of Team USA doctor Larry Nassar
By Jennifer Smith for DailyMail.com
Michael Phelps has thrown his support behind fellow Olympian Simone Biles and her decision to withdraw from two events at the Tokyo Games over mental health concerns, saying athletes need more support and people they can trust.
Phelps, who has been open about his own mental health struggles in the past and has said he contemplated suicide after the 2012 Games, appeared on NBC’s Today to say he respected Biles’ decision to withdraw.
‘We’re human beings. We have emotions. We deal with things just like everybody else does. It’s difficult.
‘I would say we want support, we feel the love from everybody else,’ he said.
While giving coverage of the Games for NBC, he said: ‘Mental health over the last 18 months is something people are talking about.
Phelps, who has been open about his own mental health struggles in the past and contemplated suicide after the 2012 Games, appeared on NBC’s Today to say he respected Biles’ decision to withdraw
‘Nobody is perfect. So yes, it is OK not to be OK,’ adding Biles’ decision ‘broke his heart.’
Biles, 24, who is widely considered the best gymnast of all time, has withdrawn from Thursday’s solo event after withdrawing from Wednesday’s team competition.
It’s unclear if she will take part in the three other events that she is scheduled to participate in.
On Tuesday night, Phelps, in his NBC coverage, said: ‘The easiest way for me to say this is athletes, and Olympic athletes in general.
Phelps said he contemplated suicide after the 2012 Olympic Games. He said he would suffer ‘intense’ lows and periods of depression after the Games
‘We need someone who we can trust, somebody that can let us be ourselves and listen. Allow us to become vulnerable.
‘Somebody who’s not going to try to fix us. We carry a lot of weight on our shoulders, and it’s challenging,’ he said.
Phelps won 28 Olympic medals before he retired in 2016 after the Rio Games.
He later revealed he’d been battling depression and contemplated suicide after the 2012 London Olympics.
He said he once didn’t leave his room for five days because he had fallen into such a deep depression that he felt like the ‘weakest’ person in the world.
He said that for him, the pressure of the event was not what was difficult but the ‘intense low’ he felt afterwards.
Since retiring, he has been a mental health advocate. He now works with the organization Talkspace.
On Wednesday, Biles said she would not participate in Thursday night’s individual all-around final – where she was due to defend her Olympic title.
She also retweeted a statement from another gymnast which linked her decision to withdraw to the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of pedophile doctor Larry Nassar, who remains in prison for his abuse of dozens of girls, including past and present Team USA gymnasts.
The statement read: ‘We are talking about the same girl who was molested by her team doctor throughout her entire childhood and teenage years.
‘That girl has endured more trauma by the age of 24 than most people will ever go through in a lifetime.’
Biles has routinely criticized USA Gymnastics’ handling of Nassar’s abuse of the athletes.
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