'You want your mind for the rest of your life': Biles' decision puts spotlight on mental health

APTOPIX Tokyo Olympics Artistic Gymnastics
Posted at 10:29 PM, Jul 27, 2021

MILWAUKEE — Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles has said she pulled out of the Olympic women’s all-around competition because of mental health concerns.

Marvin Kimble, a recently retired top gymnast and proud Milwaukee native - the city's skyline is tattooed on his forearm - spoke to TMJ4 News about his reaction to Bile's decision.

"I get it like, I've been talking to some of my national team members," said Kimble. "And they're like, you know this makes sense like, this is what she needed like she needed a little break to get herself back together, collect herself."

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Biles withdrew from the all-around, citing stress and saying, ‘her mind was not there.’

Kim, now retired at 25, was a member of the U.S. national team for years and competed at the 2017 World Championships.

He recalled his own struggles with mental health while fighting for a spot on the 2018 World Championship team.

"I felt good going in, and I just had a mental breakdown," said Kimble. "I was crying, I was like, just in my own head freaking out, and I just couldn't say anything to anybody because I didn't know what to say, I didn't know how to say it."

According to the non-profit Athletes for Hope, up to 35 percent of professional athletes suffer from a mental health crisis, possibly leading to stress, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.

In 2018, gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps campaigned for mental health awareness. And the conversation has continued to grow.

"It has become quite openly spoke about. The stigma is slowly going away," said Dr. Monna Arvinen-Barrow, an Associate Professor in Sport and Performance Psychology at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

Dr. Arvinen-Barrow believes Biles' moment in the all-around - not to compete but to prioritize her mental health - will build on a movement to put the well-being of the athlete "before the performance outcome."

"She [Biles] has a lot of impacts and probably more than she knows," said Dr. Arvinen-Barrow.

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Dr. Arvinen-Barrow also said the science behind high-performance is already geared toward rest and recovery because it's proven to generate medals, compared to an older approach of competing at all costs.

Though retired from competition, Marvin Kimble will continue his life in gymnastics as a coach for younger athletes.

"You want your mind for the rest of your life, so you got to, you know, be, be clear-minded," said Kimble.

He eventually turned to meditation to deal with the stress of being a world-class athlete.

"Meditation is key; meditation helped me so, so much."

Bruce Harrison at TMJ4 first reported this story.