Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympics, Simone Biles, Tokyo Olympics

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympics

Jackie Joyner-Kersee on Simone Biles' Olympic Withdrawal: 'She Was Brave'

The six-time track-and-field medalist hopes the conversation surrounding Biles’ decision to not participate in some events will change how we treat athletes’ mental health

8/2/2021 6:27:00 PM

Today, gymnast Simone Biles announced that she would resume competing in the Olympic Games. But, six-time gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee tells Rolling Stone, the conversation she started is an important one.

The six-time track-and-field medalist hopes the conversation surrounding Biles’ decision to not participate in some events will change how we treat athletes’ mental health

withdrawing from the women’s gymnastics team final because she wasn’t “in the right headspace,” she felt admiration for her. “She was brave enough to even speak up and not to give in to the pressures of ‘I’m Simone Biles; I’m supposed to do this,’” she says. (Biles

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later announcedshe would be returning to the individual final for the balance beam.)Things were different during Joyner-Kersee’s own career in the Eighties and Nineties, during which she won six medals, including two golds in record-setting heptathlon performances and one gold for long jump. In 1999, she was named “Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century” by

Sports Illustrated.“When I was coming up, you said anything about mental health they’d say, ‘Oh you weak, something wrong with you,’” she says. “We [only] talked about our mental health as far as being tough. When everything is going well, you don’t think about the other tools that you need to navigate when things are headtopics.com

notgoing well.”She urges the public to have empathy for what athletes performing at the elite level go through. “You see the finished product,” she says. “You see you don’t see the pain. You don’t see the tears. Athletes are so vulnerable, and even though people see us as invincible, we’re human, too. You go through your ups and downs, and it’s really spotlighted when you’re on the world stage.”

In an era of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, Joyner-Kersee believes athletes face additional pressure that she didn’t have to contend with, including more press obligations and the constant availability of athletes to their fans (and haters) on social media. “When we were training, we knew after April 15th, our interviews, any magazine covers, you shut it down so you could just really focus,” she says. “And when it comes to social media, I think it’s a wonderful way to be able to have your voice heard. But as much as there are people that celebrate you, there are some real cruel people that say mean things. It’s amazing how we talk about how our focus is on the positive, but it’s that one nasty thing someone says that lingers in your mind.”

She also points to the Covid-19 pandemic as an added stressor for this year’s athletes. “All of a sudden everything is shut down,” she says. “There’s nowhere you can practice and, yes, you’re being creative, but that’s a lot of change that’s going on.” Enough to throw anyone off their game.

Joyner-Kersee hopes Biles’ high-profile choice to withdraw from both the women’s team finals and the all-around competition will continue prompting conversations around mental health that will make a real difference for the next generation of athletes. The great thing about a high-profile event like the Tokyo games, she says, is that they can bring to light issues that happen outside the glow of primetime coverage. “It’s an opportunity to have genuine conversations, and don’t let it die down after the Olympic Games,” she says. “This is something that’s happening in every sport, and we must continue the conversation, but also put the resources behind it so we can help the younger generation of athletes, and not just at the Olympic level.” headtopics.com

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She started the conversation? Really? I guess when it's non-Americans who start it, it doesn't matter, right? she’s stunning and brave to come back for one event after her PR team told her she needs to come back to keep the sponsor money coming ?

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Laurie Hernandez talks about Jade Carey’s gold medal and Simone Biles’ returnAmerican artistic gymnast Laurie Hernandez joins TODAY in Tokyo to talk about Jade Carey’s gold medal win in floor exercise Monday: “She did such a wonderful routine.” She also talks Biles’ decision to compete on balance beam Tuesday after withdrawing from previous events. “It is a huge accomplishment for her to be able to compete and just enjoy herself,” she says. “I think beam in probably the safest route … I have a feeling she’s going to do very well.” She’s so much better than Nastia LaurieH has been a DELIGHT on Today's Olympics' coverage. Please keep her around NBC!!!! Hoda needs to let Simone Biles go, at this point she looks obsessed with her.

How a message from Simone Biles helped MyKayla Skinner win her silver medalAfter Biles withdrew from another event, she immediately told USA Gymnastics to tell Skinner to stick around in Tokyo. Skinner made the most of the opportunity.

MyKayla Skinner Dedicates Silver Medal Win At Tokyo Olympics To Simone BilesMyKayla Skinner is retiring from gymnastics as a silver medal winner at the Tokyo Olympics , an opportunity afforded to her after Simone Biles withdrew from the vault finals to focus on her mental h… Awesome 👍🏼 Still only second best... Blacks treated in Federal courts. Documents labeled for Appellant court District Court rules on them. District court has no jurisdiction but wants to influence an Appellate decision.

Simone Biles Withdraws From Floor Exercise Final at OlympicsUSA Gymnastics announced Sunday in Tokyo that the six-time Olympic medalist has opted not to compete on floor exercise. I'm really sad for her. Hope she gets better very soon 😞 😭 I was really hoping she’d feel better enough to compete.🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽❤️❤️❤️❤️ get better Simone ❤️ Right decision

Simone Biles Says She’s Out of the Olympic Floor Exercise Final Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic floor exercise title, her sports federation said. Her final opportunity to compete again at the Tokyo Olympics is the balance beam on Tuesday. this is terrible news Simon who? Good thing you didn't let racist Reuters select the photos for you. Oh, never mind, they only select UGLY photos for Chinese athletes (and those from other enemy nations).