WLWT: Mental health issues prompt Simone Biles to drop out of Olympic team finals

UC psychologist says a variety of factors could be responsible

The sports world was stunned this week by the news that United States gymnast Simone Biles was dropping out of the team competition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, citing mental health issues. 

She withdrew from the team competition after making a mental mistake during her vault.

In a story produced by WLWT, Barbara Walker, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the UC College of Medicine said she was not all that surprised by Biles pulling out of the group competition due to mental health concerns.

"I think everybody has their own little breaking point," Walker said. "Watching her over the years, I think that she had a lot of pressure on her when we think about, first of all, that the Olympics were postponed for a year."

Barbara Walker, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience in the UC College of Medicine

Barbara Walker, PhD, of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience in the UC College of Medicine/Photo/Colleen Kelley/UC Creative + Brand

Walker talked about Biles' age and how an additional year of training brings a lot of wear and tear on an older gymnast's body.

Walker also cited the abuse Biles suffered under USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar and how she recently talked about it in interviews.

She also said Olympic athletes are under different pressures this year than most: COVID-19 concerns, no crowds cheering them on and no family at the games supporting them.

"I'm sure that this has just been like a bad storm in so many ways," Walker said.

Walker hopes Biles and tennis star Naomi Osaka are changing the conversation and breaking stigmas concerning athletes and the importance of mental health.

"Athletes in general, especially elite athletes, have always been deemed as sort of these super people, right?" she said. "I'm hoping that this is not looked at as a weakness anymore."

See the entire story here

Walker was also interviewed for a story on the same topic by WCPO-TV. See that story here.

WHIO-TV in Dayton featured Walker in their coverage of the story. See that story here.  

Lead photo/Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Next Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is classified as a Research 1 institution by the Carnegie Commission and is ranked in the National Science Foundation's Top-35 public research universities. UC's medical, graduate and undergraduate students and faculty investigate problems and innovate solutions with real-world impact. Next Lives Here.