SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In the Olympics, it was a huge shocker to many Tuesday as U.S. gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the team event.
The U.S. did come away with the silver medal but many thought they were a lock for gold, Biles saying afterwards that her mental health wasn't right. While many have called her out on social media, coaches and doctors are coming to her defense.
"I just want to emphasize how much I applaud Simone for having the courage to do what she did on the biggest stage because that is not easy to do," said UCLA Gymnastics Associate Head Coach Kristina Comforte, after watching the competition from afar. During a press conference after the event Biles said she waited five-and-a-half hours and during that time, she was shaking and could barely nap, something she had never experienced before a competition.
"I tried to go out here and have fun and warm up in the back, went a little bit better, but once I came out here I was like no mental is not there," said Biles. Comforte hasn't spoken with Biles but says it looked like a 'mental block,' something that can be common, but very dangerous for gymnasts and something she experienced years ago.
"I can think of once when it happened. I physically could not do the skill, it was just the brain to body connection was not working that day in practice, and I just had to stop and then a couple days later it was okay," said Comforte.
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Dr. Armando Gonzalez, known to many as Dr. Mondo, is a mental health coach for several elite athletes in different sports, and said Biles previously went through one of the most traumatic things the body can go through, sexual assault by former team doctor Larry Nassar. He believes she is still healing saying that PTSD from that can be triggered in stressful and emotional scenarios.
"If I was speaking with her now I'd just say, 'hey look, it makes sense your body probably went into protection mode and shutdown. You're still healing. This has nothing to do with who you are and what you are capable of. This was just one of those days that your body was trying to protect you,'" said Dr. Gonzalez.
Comforte says every year at UCLA she helps run summer camps and the question of how to deal with 'mental blocks' always comes up. She believes this is a moment that will help many younger athletes going through the same thing.
"Having the strength to say 'no this isn't right today and I need to be safe,' that is going to make a difference," she said.
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