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Michael Phelps shares emotional reaction to Simone Biles' withdrawal from team event

TODAY logo TODAY 7/28/2021 Kait Hanson

Olympian Michael Phelps understands the "weight of gold."

Michael Phelps looking at the camera: The Olympic Games-Tokyo 2020 (Tim Clayton - Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images) © Tim Clayton - Corbis The Olympic Games-Tokyo 2020 (Tim Clayton - Corbis / Corbis via Getty Images)

The most decorated Olympian in history spoke with NBC's Mike Tirico Wednesday on Simon Biles' exit from the women's gymnastics team final in Tokyo this week and the mental load athletes carry.

"It broke my heart," Phelps said of Biles' shocking announcement, adding that he hopes her withdrawal from the event will make waves beyond this year's Olympic Games.

"I hope this is an eye-opening experience, I really do," Phelps said. "I hope this is an opportunity for us to jump on board, and to even blow this mental health thing even more wide open. It is so much bigger than we can ever imagine."

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Biles withdrew from the final on Tuesday after competing in just one rotation on vault, where she stumbled on the landing. Team USA secured silver after Jordan Chiles stepped in for Biles, who cited a need to focus on her mental health.


Video: Team USA athletes support Simone Biles for putting her mental health first (Yahoo! Sports)

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"We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we're human, too," Biles said, according to The Associated Press. "We have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do."

Phelps recalled his own battles with mental health during competition.

"I think the biggest thing is, we all need to ask for help sometimes too," he said. "I can say personally, it was something that very challenging. It was hard for me to ask for help."

Phelps has been open about his own mental health struggles, and Tirico noted his candidness "might be more your legacy than 23 gold medals."

"It's so important, especially to teach kids at a young age to take control of their physical and mental health," he told Tirico. "You guys hear me talk about that so much, (but)if we're not taking care of both, how are we ever expecting to be 100 percent?"

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