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Cavs' Kevin Love Responds to Simone Biles Withdrawing from Olympics

a photo of Olympic gymnast Simone Biles
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Simone Biles said mental health was a priority when deciding to withdraw from the Olympics. Cleveland Cavaliers player Kevin Love is supporting Biles speaking out about mental health issues.

The news that Team USA Olympic gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the gymnastics team final this week, citing mental health as one of her reasons, is reverberating around the world and in Cleveland.

Cleveland Cavaliers player Kevin Love, who received recognition in 2017 for speaking about mental health, responded to the news on Instagram on Wednesday.

"By being open about your struggles, you flip vulnerabilities into victories," he wrote in the post. "To Simone and others who have openly shared their story...You are helping many. Continue to lean into discomfort and vulnerability. Don’t deny your story — defy the ending."

The “flip” was perhaps a subtle reference to the gymnast. Biles has won 30 Olympic and World Championship medals for her flips and twists during floor exercises and other events.

Love was supposed to be a member of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team competing in Tokyo this summer but withdrew from the Olympics because of an injury.

The news of Biles withdrawing will have an impact on athletes at all levels, all over the world, said  Dr. Vincent Caringi, sports psychiatrist at University Hospitals.

"This is a topic that's getting some long-overdue recognition and discussion," he said. "It's impossible to be perfect. My hope is that stories can be shared to amplify the support that's available when you do say, 'I need help.'"

Biles' decision will allow other athletes to take note of their mental health before an injury occurs, which is what Biles said she was doing, he said.

A common misconception in sports is that an athlete has to give 110%, but that's physically and mathematically impossible, Caringi said. However, that hasn't stopped online commenters from criticizing Biles. 

"We're seeing a part of society that is looking to label her as a coward, or weak-willed, or question her moral character as being flawed," he said. 

Kevin Love responded to these critics in his post:

"We are all raised to believe emotions aren’t worthy of our attention. I recall reading a fitting term once: “emotion-phobic.” This isn’t a way to live. Your perspectives are understood but NO ONE benefits from withholding compassion."

Mental health is just as important as physical health, and the fact that Biles recognized that may have saved her life, Caringi said.

"Not only could she have been severely injured, it's not only a career-ending potential, it's actually a life-threatening potential," he said. 

After Love spoke about his own mental health struggles, including having a panic attack during a National Basketball Association game, many other athletes began treating mental health more seriously, Caringi said.

Caringi is hopeful that as more athletes talk about mental health it will lead to a cultural shift on this issue.

"I think we've seen a transition over recent years, where athletes are starting to see the world a little differently now," he said. 

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