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Rochester mental health professional and gymnasts react to Simone Biles withdrawal

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Olympic gymnast Simone Biles has withdrawn herself from Thursday's all-around individual competition. This comes after her decision to remove herself from the team final, citing mental health difficulty. Simone Biles' decision is being brought up all around the world and there are many mixed feelings on the headline. KTTC spoke with a mental health professional as well as some local gymnasts to try and get a better understanding.

Gymnast Simone Biles performs at perhaps the most elite level but even she is not exempt from mental health struggles.

"Athletes at the amateur level, at the youth level, at all levels can feel like this game, this competition is everything. Regardless of where you're at, it can feel like life or death," said Sports Psychologist Dr. Max Trenerry.

Trenerry says that sometimes, this anxiety and overwhelming feeling to succeed can severely affect the way an athlete performs.

"The nature of the sport is all timing based. Catastrophic injuries can happen from small mistakes. So, I think a lot of it is just not being aware of how the sport operates because I think that makes you be more understanding why the decision was made and how it was made," said J.E.T.S. Head Coach Daniel Nelson.

Biles' decision to opt out of the Olympics to focus on her mental health is sending a message to aspiring gymnasts, including those in Rochester.

"I think showing that even like the best in the world got over-stressed and a lot of this and I think it's helpful to know that and it can make the other people relax a little bit, like it's okay to take a break," said J.E.T.S. gymnast Madison Kline.

Another major aspect of mental health, according to professionals, is pressure, whether it is the amount one puts on themselves or the amount received from others.

"In athletics, maybe other parts of life too, you know sometimes pride can turn into pressure. And the pride and pressure start to add up to don't make a mistake, don't do something wrong. And, again, just from a cognitive stand point, we start thinking about what could go wrong instead of what could go well, and I have seen athletes who focus so much on don't make a mistake, that they ended up making the mistakes," Dr. Trenerry stated.

Although Simone Biles removed herself from the team final competition and Thursday's individual all-around competition, it is still unknown if she will compete in next week's individual events.

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Carli Petrus

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