Olympic gymnast Max Whitlock has voiced his support for Simone Biles after the US star pulled out of events in Tokyo to protect her mental health.
The three-time gold medallist said it was the “right decision” for Biles, and will have an impact on others who find themselves in similar situations.
Speaking at a homecoming event on Thursday following his success in the men’s pommel horse competition at Tokyo 2020, Whitlock said: “She made that decision based on how she thought she’d get the most out of herself and, looking at the bigger picture, she’s said she wants to continue to Paris.
“It was the right decision for her and I think this will make an impact on a lot of people in terms of them feeling OK that they can make the decision for themselves and not get so much judgment for that decision as well.
“I know that the support is out there and it’s getting more and more and I think that decisions that people like Simone have made now can only take it more into the limelight.”
Biles won her seventh Olympic medal on Tuesday when she took bronze on the women’s beam.
The achievement came after she withdrew from the women’s team final last week, as well as three of the four individual finals for which she had qualified.
On a visit to South Essex Gymnastics Club where he trains, Whitlock coached some young gymnasts before answering their questions about his success in Japan.
Speaking to the PA news agency, he said: “I think even a chance just to hold an Olympic medal for a young child is hugely impactful and I think that can really set them up and think ‘maybe I want that one day’.
“When I was young, it wasn’t the case that there were many people ahead in terms of who you can look up to.
“I think the impact that [having senior gymnasts around] would’ve had on me is incredible so if I can offer that and help out where I can, then I am up for it.”
Whitlock won gold in the men’s pommel horse gymnastics in Tokyo to add to the two he won in Rio in 2016.
It was the sixth Olympic medal of his career overall, making him one of Britain’s most successful Olympians.
The 28-year-old, from Hertfordshire, said that despite the peak of a gymnast usually being 22 or 23, he is resting ahead of training to reach the Paris 2024 games when he will be 31 and aiming to retain his pommel horse title.