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Stateline gymnasts react to Simone Biles withdrawal

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 10:04 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - A surprising exit for decorated American gymnast Simone Biles caught the eyes of many, including some area tumblers who take her work very seriously.

“I say put mental health first because if you don’t you’re not going to enjoy your sport,” Biles said.

A four-time gold medal winner and two-time olympian takes a step off the big stage to take care of herself.

“I can’t risk a medal for the team so I need to call it and you usually don’t hear me say things like that,” Biles said.

Licensed social worker Kevin Polky knows the struggles biles faces all too well. He says without a proper mental state a sport can become dangerous for athletes.

“We’re humans first athletes second,” Polky said .”It’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and we need to be taking care of all aspects of who we are.”

When it comes to gymnastics, athletes flip and tumble constantly. Stateline YMCA Gymnastics Center Program Manager Dalton Struebin says he can tell when an athlete is dealing with mental challenges.

“I’ve had plenty of gymnasts that have come into the gym and you can kind of see what their body language is,” Stuebin said. “Mentality is everything mental preparation will set up the physical preparation.”

Rylie Arensdorf is a gymnast at the Stateline YMCA. She says on multiple times she’s stepped off the mat to address mental concerns. She believes Biles’ message is one every athlete should take to heart.

“I feel like when a lot of people hear about this they will look down on her,” Arensdorf said. “From a gymnast’s point of view, we will be able to understand this and be like ‘wow she’s so courageous.’”

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