Simone Biles Shares Support for Naomi Osaka as Both Speak Out on Mental Health Struggles at Olympics
After Biles, 24, withdrew from the gymnastics team finals at the Tokyo Olympics and 23-year-old Osaka lost her third-round match on Tuesday, the gymnast shared support for the tennis star for being so candid about her struggles with mental health leading up to the Summer Games.
"I say put mental health first because if you don't, then you're not going to enjoy your score and you're not gonna succeed as much as you want to," the gymnast told reporters when asked about Osaka.
Biles added, "So, it's okay sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself because it shows how strong of a competitor or a person that you really are."
The Tokyo Olympics were Osaka's first major tournament in two months after she decided to withdraw from both the French Open and Wimbledon to manage her mental health struggles. Osaka was also making her Olympic debut, representing Japan after lighting the Olympic Torch on Friday.
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Following her loss, Osaka also discussed the emotional toll of performing on the world's biggest athletic stage while speaking to reporters on Tuesday.
"I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this," she said. "I think it's maybe because I haven't played in the Olympics before and for the first year [it] was a bit much. I think I'm glad with how I played, with taking that break that I had," she said.
The four-time Grand Slam singles champion continued, "I've taken long breaks before and I've managed to do well. I'm not saying that I did bad right now, but I do know that my expectations were a lot higher."
"I feel like my attitude wasn't that great because I don't really know how to cope with that pressure so that's the best that I could have done in this situation," she told reporters. "I'm disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others."
Like Osaka, Biles said her struggles on Tuesday were due to her mental, and not physical health.
When asked about her decision to withdraw, Biles told reporters, "You usually don't hear me say things like that because I'll usually persevere and push through things, but not to cost the team a medal. So they were like, 'Okay, well, if Simone says this then we need to take it pretty serious.' I had the correct people around me to do that."
"Today has been really stressful. We had to work out this morning and it went okay. And then just that five-and-a-half-hour wait or something, I was just like, shaking, [and] could barely nap. I just never felt like this at this point in a competition before," Biles continued. "And I tried to go out here and have fun and warm up in the back, feel a little bit better. But then once I came out I was like, 'No, mental is not there.' So I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself."
Biles explained: "I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a backseat, work on my mindfulness, and I knew that the girls would do an absolutely great job."
"I know they were a little bit worried going in and emotions were all over the place, but I think they just needed reassurance that they were going to be okay," she added. "They were, they did it without me and are Olympic silver medalists."
Speaking to PEOPLE, the two-time Olympian said that she and her teammates practice mindfulness as a group before they compete.
"Usually we practice mindfulness in the morning off because that's a great start," Biles said. "You can't really do it in practice because then you're focused and tuned in."
Biles had planned to compete again on Thursday in the individual all-around gymnastics finals, but she told reporters that she'll reevaluate her plans over the next few days.
"I know that tomorrow we have a half-day or at least the morning off. So it'll be a good mental rest so we'll take it from there," she said.
RELATED VIDEO: Simone Biles Suddenly Exits Women's Team Event But Says She's 'Okay' and May Be Back for Other Finals
Following her exit, USA Gymnastics told PEOPLE in a statement that Biles had "withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions."
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The three-time gold medalist previously opened up about her mental state on Instagram, following the team's shaky performance in the qualifying round. "I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times," she wrote. "I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn't affect me but damn sometimes it's hard hahaha! The Olympics is no joke!"
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics now on NBC.