Reigning Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles says she withdrew from the team finals in Tokyo because of mental health concerns.
An emotional Biles broke down in tears after the United States claimed a silver medal in the event.
"Whenever you get in a high stress situation you kind of freak out," she said. "I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and wellbeing."
"We have to protect our body and our mind.
"It just sucks when you're fighting with your own head.
"For me, I'm proud for how the girls stepped up and did what they had to do. I owe this to the girls, it has nothing to do with me. I am very proud of them."
The 24-year-old U.S. star, considered to be one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, was seen huddling with a trainer after landing awkwardly off the vault. She then exited the competition floor with the team doctor.
Biles returned several minutes later with her right leg wrapped. She took off her bar grips, and hugged teammates Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles before putting on a jacket and sweatpants. She did not warm up for the uneven bars.
The Americans were forced to finish the rest of the competition without her, severely hampering their bid to claim a third straight Olympic title.
They eventually finished second behind the Russian Federation.
Biles had bailed on her planned Amanar vault, opting for an easier one in mid-air and then struggling with the landing, in a rare miscue by the Olympic champion.
The American star looked concerned as she was comforted by trainers following the precarious landing, with reports Biles had been carrying a minor ankle injury into the Games.
USA Gymnastics released a statement confirming Biles' immediate withdrawal from the evening's action.
"Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue," the statement read.
"She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions."
Biles' former teammate Aly Raisman was stunned by the development.
"Simone is human. She has pains like all of us. When i saw her with the medic, my heart dropped. I was just devastated - still am," she said on NBC.
Biles arrived in Tokyo as the unquestioned star of the Games but struggled, at least by her high standards, during qualifying.
She revealed a piece of telling insight on Instagram following the event, showcasing a more candid side to the superstar.
- with AP
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