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Michael Phelps knows better than perhaps anybody the pressure Simone Biles is under at the Olympics.
During a primetime program with NBC’s Mike Tirico, the 23-time gold medalist talked about the Olympic burden and Biles’ decision to withdraw from the team gymnastics event.
“I think athletes and Olympic athletes in general, I mean, talking about weight of gold. We need someone who we can trust,” Phelps said. “Somebody that can let us be ourselves and listen. Allow us to become vulnerable, somebody who’s not going to try and fix us. You know, we carry a lot of things, a lot of weight on our shoulders. And it’s challenging, especially when we have the lights on us and all of these expectations that are being thrown on top of us. So it broke my heart.”
Biles talked about the pressure of being “the head star” after withdrawing from the team event and cheering on her teammates. Team USA announced early Wednesday that the superstar gymnast will not compete in all-around competition on Thursday. Phelps defended the 24-year-old, saying he felt a similar stress during his swimming career.
“We’re human beings. Nobody is perfect. So, yes, it is OK to not be OK,” Phelps said. “It was hard for me to ask for help. I felt like I was carrying, as Simone said, the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
Like Phelps, Biles is regarded as one of, if not the, best in her sport, racking up a total of 30 combined Olympic and World Championship medals. Phelps has spoke openly in the past about his battles with depression.
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“I hope this is an opportunity for us to jump on board and to even blow this mental health thing even more wide open,” Phelps said. “It is so much bigger than we could even ever imagine.”
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