As the conversation surrounding prioritizing athletes’ mental health continues, Simone Biles shared how much love and admiration she has for tennis star Naomi Osaka.
After withdrawing from several gymnastics events in the Tokyo Olympics, Simone received an outpouring of support from her teammates, celebs, and fellow athletes — including Naomi, who has been a strong advocate for mental health in the sports world in recent months.
Simone shared that Naomi reached out to her after she publicly announced her choice to step down from some of the upcoming gymnastics events. “I was so overwhelmed, so I didn’t get the chance to respond, but I had so many people reach out and she was just so sweet,” Simone said of the tennis star who also competed in this year’s Olympic games.
Simone, who came away from the 2020 Olympics with a bronze medal for her beam performance, went on to celebrate and praise Naomi for being an important advocate for athletes’ mental health. The four-time Grand Slam victor made headlines earlier this summer when she opted to withdraw from the French Open after facing a fine for declining to interact with reporters during the events; her decision spurred a larger discussion about the way the public often treats athletes as performers and entertainment while dismissing their health needs.
“She is speaking up about mental health, and I think it is really important that athletes put their mental health first,” “Because, at the end of the day, that is what is going to determine how well we go out there and compete in whatever sport that is.”
Simone went on to express gratitude for the light that’s been shed on this important topic. “I think now that it is a leading topic of conversation, it is really helpful, because at the end of the day, we are athletes and it is our craft, but we are human too,” she explained.
Her comments echo Naomi’s own words; the tennis star recently penned an open letter in TIME where she emphasized how crucial it is to prioritize mental health in all aspects of life, including the work of an athlete. “Athletes are humans,” she wrote, adding: “But I can’t imagine another profession where a consistent attendance record (I have missed one press conference in my seven years on tour) would be so harshly scrutinized. Perhaps we should give athletes the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions.”