Outspoken pundit Piers Morgan may have won the gold medal for blunt opinion Tuesday when he questioned top gymnast Simone Biles’ sudden departure from the Olympics team competition following an uncharacteristically poor performance.
“Are ‘mental health issues’ now the go-to excuse for any poor performance in elite sport? What a joke,” Morgan tweeted. “Just admit you did badly, made mistakes, and will strive to do better next time. Kids need strong role models not this nonsense.”
Biles, 24, said Tuesday she wasn’t in the right frame of mind entering the Tokyo Olympics and found herself “fighting all of those demons” once the action got underway. She removed herself from Tuesdays events and watched as her teammates won the silver medal in the team competition. Biles could return for the gymnastics all-around competition Thursday.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka, a medal favorite who was defeated Tuesday, cited the preservation of her own mental health for withdrawing from the French Open in April and skipping Wimbledon in June. While both Biles and Osaka have been widely praised for speaking out about the importance of mental well-being, one Twitter user suggested comments like Morgan’s are what lead people with problems to remain silent.
“When someone takes their own life, the amount of times you hear ‘if only they’d reached out,’ but when someone speaks out about their mental health you get tweets like this,” tweeted one person sympathetic to Biles.
Others debated to what extent Biles’ performance was caused by her mental state and vice versa. Some people agreed with Morgan.
“Why are you so spot on 100% of the time??” a fan of the 56-year-old pundit tweeted.
Jamaican gymnast Danucia Francis found Biles’ decision majestic and called her the Greatest of All Time.
“Don’t know about you but I think Simone Biles just empowered everyone to put their mental well-being above everything else,” she tweeted. “WHAT A QUEEN. GOAT in more ways than one.”
Former Team USA Olympian and gold medalist Kerri Strug sent her support Biles too.
“Sending love to you Simone Biles,” she tweeted
Morgan wasn’t finished — nor were his critics.
“Athletes are now deemed more courageous, inspiring & heroic if they lose or quit then if they win or tough it out, which is ridiculous,” he later added on Twitter. “I blame Twitter’s virtue-signallers for fuelling this culture of celebrating weakness. The real world doesn’t think like that.”
That comment was replied to with video of Morgan walking off the set of “Good Morning Britain” and quitting the show following a tense exchange with a colleague in March. Morgan defended that moment as “heroic.”