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‘Mental blocks ain’t no joke’: Rhys McClenaghan backs Simone Biles over Olympic withdrawal

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Rhys McClenaghan has spoken about how mental blocks can affect an athlete. Picture: ©INPHO/Photosport/John Cowpland

Rhys McClenaghan has spoken about how mental blocks can affect an athlete. Picture: ©INPHO/Photosport/John Cowpland

©INPHO/Photosport/John Cowpland

Rhys McClenaghan has spoken about how mental blocks can affect an athlete. Picture: ©INPHO/Photosport/John Cowpland

Ireland’s Olympic gymnastic hopeful Rhys McClenaghan has spoken up in support of US’s Simone Biles, who withdrew from the Olympic Games yesterday because of mental health concerns.

Mental blocks ain’t no joke, I’ve experienced this first hand throughout my career and they are still the most challenging times I’ve faced,” tweeted 23 year old Rhys, who is making his Olympic debut in this year’s Tokyo games, and is the first ever Irish gymnast to qualify for an Olympic games final.

The Down native is a favourite for the pommel horse final on Sunday, as his qualifying score of 15.266 was the joint second highest overall. In 2019 he became the first Irish gymnast to qualify to a world championships final and to also win a medal, the first Irish gymnast to compete in a European final, and also the first to win a European medal.

“Only people who have experienced this can fully understand the stress that comes with it,” he added.

24-year-old Simone Biles won four gold medals for the US Gymnastics team in Rio in 2016, and had hoped to defend her titles this year. However, a mistake on her opening vault in Tuesday night’s team final prompted her to leave the arena with a US team medic, and pull out of the final altogether, citing mental health concerns.

Biles said on Tuesday: “It’s been really stressful these Olympic Games, not having an audience. It’s been a long week, a long Olympic process, a long year. We are just a little bit too stressed out. We should be out here having fun.

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“I feel like I’m also not having as much fun and this Olympic Games I wanted it to be for myself and it felt like I was still doing it for other people. It hurts my heart that doing what I love has been taken away from me to please other people.”

Biles has since withdrawn from the defence of her all-around title but USA Gymnastics said Biles is yet to decide whether to withdraw from her other four individual finals, which are scheduled to take place next week.


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