Simone Biles will not be defending her individual all-around title at the Tokyo Olympics, withdrawing from Thursday’s event “in order to focus on her mental health,” according to a statement from USA Gymnastics.
“Simone will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether or not to participate in next week’s individual event finals,” USA Gymnastics said.
Biles, who will be replaced in the all-around by Jade Carey, sent shockwaves through the global sports community Tuesday when she pulled out of the gymnastics team final after an uncharacteristically poor vault. The U.S. went on to finish second behind the Russian Olympic Committee team, as Biles cheered her teammates from the sidelines.
After the competition, she confirmed that she was not physically injured but rather needed to work on her “mindfulness.” She added: “It’s been a long week; it’s been a long Olympic process; it’s been a long year. A lot of different variables. I think we’re just a little too stressed out, but we should be out here having fun, and sometimes that’s not the case.”
The four-time Olympic gold medalist entered the Games as one of the U.S.’s most marketable stars and arguably the face of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She earns several million dollars a year off the mat, pitching sponsors like Visa, United Airlines, Athleta, Oreo cookies and Core Power protein shakes. Those sponsors came out in full support of the iconic gymnast after the team final.
“We are sending Simone support from across all of Visa and as part of the Team Visa family,” said Visa sponsorship executive Andrea Fairchild in a statement to Sportico. “This was a difficult, but incredibly brave decision and shows how Simone is able to inspire both on and off the mat. We wish her well in the days ahead.”
Biles was a longtime Nike athlete but left the sportswear giant this year to sign an agreement with the Gap-owned Athleta brand. She joined fellow Olympic legend, Allyson Felix, who became Athleta’s first-ever sponsored athlete in 2019. “Using my voice has been very empowering for me, and I am grateful to embark on this new journey with Athleta to inspire young girls and women to do the same,” Biles said in a statement announcing the news in April.
“We stand by Simone and support her well-being both in and out of competition,” Kyle Andrew, Athleta’s chief brand officer, said in a statement. “Being the best also means knowing how to take care of yourself. We are inspired by her leadership today and are behind her every step of the way.”
United, which is the official airline sponsor of Team USA and has sponsored the team for 40 years, used Biles in their new “Time to Let Yourself Fly” ad campaign, a fitting tagline for the gymnast. A company spokesperson issued a statement to Sportico: “We have huge admiration for Simone Biles—not just for her world-class talent on the mat, but more importantly for the individual she is every day. We’ve been proud to partner with her for years and continue to support her.”
The women’s gymnastics competition resumes on Thursday with the all-around event. It’s likely to be a crushing blow for NBC if Biles isn’t available for one of the most-watched events at each Olympics.
“If Biles is out for good, it’s like Brady missing a Super Bowl,” Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Baker Street Advertising, said in an email. “Losing the biggest star of the Games in the most popular event is not going to help an already troubled Games.”
(This story has been updated with the news of Biles’ withdrawal from the individual all-around event.)