Local gymnast hopeful Simone Biles' exit from Olympics sparks change

As a gymnast, Sophia Butler has always admired Simone Biles. On Tuesday, that admiration grew deeper. 

"It not only shows you how strong of a gymnast she is, but as a human," Butler told FOX 26 News. 

Biles withdrew from the Olympic gymnastics team final citing her mental health. 

"It showed how mentally strong you have to be able to exit yourself from a situation, even if it is the Olympics," added Butler.

At Discover Gymnastics in the Heights, Biles decision is been the talk of the day. 

"I think that the most important lesson is that winning isn't everything," said Juan Jimenez, a coach at the gym. 

Jimenez adds mental health is a topic he and the other coaches at Discover Gymnastics discuss regularly. He believes this moment is pivotal.

"I would love for my girls to walk away from here saying like, 'Hey, the things that are happening with me whenever I compete, the nerves that I get whenever I compete are perfectly normal. If the best gymnast in the world can have these moments, then I'm allowed to have these moments also,'" he pointed out.


He also explains not being mentally and emotionally healthy while competing in gymnastics can increase the risk for serious physical injury.

"There's a difference between healthy striving and perfectionism," said Dr. Jon Stevens, a psychiatrist with Menninger Clinic.

Dr. Stevens adds in high-achieving individuals, like athletes, perfection can turn into an all-or-nothing mindset. That, he says, can cause someone to view failure not as an event, but as a personal character flaw. He says the focus on achievement should always be the process, not the outcome. 

"Their effort, their practice, their dedication that is something we can take away from this, not just whether it was a gold medal or not," Dr. Stevens explained.

He also believes the health restrictions in place to keep the sports clean can actually be harmful.  

"The reality is that's forcing people to not be able to engage in therapy, take evidence-based medicines that could put them at an unfair disadvantage," Dr. Stevens noted.

Unfortunately, he says many put their mental health last and compartmentalize their issues.


Butler hopes Biles' courage will change spark more conversations about the overall well-being of gymnasts and other athletes. 

"It shows that no matter what, no matter how big of a stage you're on, no matter how many people are watching you, no matter how high the stakes are, your mental health and you as a human, rather than as an athlete, comes before anything else," Butler emphasized. 

If you or your loved one are experiencing any type of mental health issues, there are resources available for you