Dominique Moceanu, a member of the “Magnificent 7” gymnastics team that won gold for the U.S. in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics team competition, says she understands Simone Biles decision to withdraw from this year’s Olympic events for her mental health.
“I’ve just never felt like this going into a competition before,” Biles said in a press conference Tuesday, after withdrawing from the team 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, so I just need to let the girls do it and just focus on myself.'”
Moceanu empathized on social media, as she posted a video of herself in the Olympics, in which she was forced to push through a tibial stress fracture during the gymnastics team competition. The injury ultimately led Moceanu to fall directly on her head during the balance beam event.
“I was 14 y/o w/ a tibial stress fracture, left alone w/ no cervical spine exam after this fall. I competed in the Olympic floor final minutes later,” the former gymnast, posted on Twitter.
Moceanu went on to say that Biles’ right to withdraw due to health reasons was something she never felt like she could do.
“Simone Biles’ decision demonstrates that we have a say in our own health–a ‘say’ I NEVER felt I had as an Olympian,” she continued.
Commentators were quick to point out that not only was Moceanu made to compete despite her injury, but that no doctors or coaches really checked on her to make sure she was okay.
“I’m certain you noticed the sharp contrast between Marta’s [Karoyli] reaction to her athlete (me) and Cecile’s [the current Team USA coach Canqueteau-Landi] reaction to her athlete (Simone),” Moceanu said.
Moceanu also explained the nuances and dangers of the sport, further clarifying the importance for trainers and medical staff to listen to gymnasts and tend to their injuries, as the consequences of not doing so could be “catastrophic.”
“In our sport, we essentially dive into a pool w/ no water,” Moceanu wrote. “When you lose your ability to find the ground—which appears to be part of @Simone_Biles decision—-the consequences can be catastrophic. She made the right decision for the team & herself.”
In a statement, U.S.A. Gymnastics announced Wednesday that Biles will also withdraw from the individual all-around competition set for Thursday.
“After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games, in order to focus on her mental health,” they said in a statement. “Simone will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether or not to participate in next week’s individual event finals.”