When Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles unexpectedly pulled out of the Olympics All-Around Individual Final to "focus on her mental health," her exit drew a global response and pop star Justin Bieber showed his support for the 24-year-old gymnast by sharing scripture.
USA Gymnastics shared Biles’ decision to quit the global competition in a statement on Twitter Wednesday. The announcement came after the athlete withdrew from the finals at the Tokyo Olympics Women's Team Final the previous day. Biles completed just one vault before telling her teammates she wouldn't be competing alongside them for the remainder of the games.
Her decision was met with mixed responses as some wanted the American athlete to carry on while others applauded her exit.
Showing his support for her decision, Bieber penned a heartfelt message to Biles on Instagram.
"Nobody will ever understand the pressures you face! I know we don't know each other but I'm so proud of the decision to withdraw," the “Holy” singer wrote in support of Biles.
"It's as simple as- what does it mean to gain the whole world but forfeit your soul,” he added, quoting Mark 8:36. “Sometimes our no's are more powerful than our yes's. When what you normally love starts to steal your joy it's important we take a step back to evaluate why."
Bieber continued, "People thought I was crazy for not finishing the purpose tour but it was the best thing I could have done for my mental health!! So proud of you @simonebiles."
The Canadian star made headlines in 2017 when he canceled the remaining dates for his Purpose tour to focus on his well-being. Since then, Bieber has become an outspoken Christian and actively shares his faith on social media.
Olympic swimmer-turned-commentator Michael Phelps has also been transparent about his own mental health struggles. He, too, openly supported Biles by saying that her story “broke my heart.”
“I hope this is an eye-opening experience … an opportunity for us to jump on board, and to even blow this mental health thing even more wide open,” Phelps shared.
On Tuesday, Biles told reporters that she decided to pull out of the team final and the individual all-around because of the twisties.
"[My teammates] saw it a little bit in practice ... having a little bit of the twisties," Biles told reporters.
According to medical experts, twisties refers to a mental block that can be experienced by a gymnast as they are in the air during a twisting skill.
“When someone gets the twisties, there is a disconnect between the brain and body,” said Jamie Shapiro, Ph.D., a mental performance coach who's also the co-director of the Master's in Sport and Performance Psychology program at the University of Denver, to Health.com.
"The body knows what to do and motor programs are stored in the brain, but the brain is having trouble accessing those motor programs," she explained.
Shapiro said the disconnect between the brain and body can be very dangerous and cause an athlete to feel "a loss of a sense of control over the movement" while they are in the air.
The former club and collegiate gymnast said that occurrence can have both “physical and mental implications.” Not only will twisties make a gymnast unable to perform the skills they sought out to do, but the inability to perform the task can “cause anxiety, exacerbating the mental block,” she added
Other gymnasts on social media shared their own experiences with the twisties.
“As someone who had the twisties once, it’s what caused me to fracture my back and end my career," one former gymnast who goes by the name @switchhalf wrote. "I was only a level 10, and not planning on continuing after high school. my back still bothers me to this day, Simone could have done much worse.”
Another gymnast, who goes by the Twitter handle @kellyymcl added, “Every gymnast who’s ever struggled with the twisties and told they were crazy is crying right with you SB. this sport is scary, far from easy, and there’s so much more to life than pushing your body to do things your brain isn’t capable of doing on a given day.”
Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic