Piers Morgan inevitably criticised Simone Biles over her Olympics withdrawal – here’s what Twitter thought

Piers Morgan inevitably criticised Simone Biles over her Olympics withdrawal – here’s what Twitter thought

Simone Biles has been flooded with support on social media over her Olympic exit, yet one commentator has (inevitably) lashed out at the US icon.

No sooner had the 24-year-old gymnast pulled out of the women’s team event on Tuesday, citing struggles with her mental health, than Piers Morgan condemned her brave statement in a fresh Twitter tirade, followed by a scathing newspaper column.

The former Good Morning Britain host, 56, tweeted: "Are ‘mental health issues’ now the go-to excuse for any poor performance in elite sport? What a joke. Just admit you did badly, made mistakes, and will strive to do better next time.

“Kids need strong role models not this nonsense."

Biles, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, later decided to withdraw from Thursday’s all-round final.

In a follow-up tweet, Morgan said that athletes who “lost or quit” are “now deemed more courageous, inspiring and heroic” and that social media was promoting a “culture of celebrating weakness.”

Then, writing for the Daily Mail on Wednesday, he accused her of “letting down [her] teammates, fans and country” after describing her as “cocky”.

His assessments were met with widespread fury and condemnation, as fellow Twitter users accused him of cruelty and hypocrisy, while praising Biles for her courage.

Here’s a look at their response:

A number reminded the 56-year-old of his dramatic GMB departure, when he stormed out of the studio after being challenged by ITV weatherman Alex Beresford during a row over Meghan Markle:

Morgan then tweeted the clip himself, using it to double-down on his mockery of Biles and other athletes who speak out about their mental health issues:

He also referred back to the controversy in his column, writing: “After I tweeted criticism of Simone Biles yesterday, thousands of people promptly bombarded me with the now infamous meme of me walking off, and savagely mocked for quitting.

“Oddly, they didn’t think ME quitting was as brave, heroic and inspiring as Ms Biles quitting! Nor, of course, did any of them ever give a damn about my mental health as they spewed their vile foul-mouthed abuse.”

Elsewhere in his article, Morgan likened Biles to Naomi Osaka – a previous subject of his disdain.

“Now we have Simone Biles being saluted as 'iconic' for quitting, and even citing Naomi Osaka as her inspirational spirit animal for doing so,” he wrote.

“Well sorry if it offends all the howling Twitter snowflake virtue-signallers, but I don’t think it’s remotely courageous, heroic or inspiring to quit.”

Last month, the 56-year-old hit out at the tennis star after she announced that she would no longer take part in press conferences or interviews.

The sportswoman explained that her decision was a bid to protect her mental health, revealing that she had suffered constant bouts of depression since winning her first grand slam title three years ago.

But Morgan instantly dismissed her deeply personal admission, accusing her – in another column for the Daily Mail – of “playing the mental health card” and branding her an “arrogant spoiled brat whose fame and fortune appears to have inflated her ego to gigantic proportions”.

The outspoken broadcaster dismissed any suggestion that his criticism was based on sexism or racism, responding to one critic at the time: “What does her skin colour have to do with it? I’d have written the same column if Naomi Osaka was white. For you to now play the race card to attack and silence any perfectly justified criticism of her behaviour is shameful.”

In his new column on Biles he harkened back to the backlash, writing: “Nobody now dares criticise Naomi Osaka, and if you try, as I’ve done, you get branded a sexist racist douchebag.”

In Wednesday’s comment piece he also couldn’t resist taking aim at his ultimate nemesis: the Duchess of Sussex, describing her as “the person who more than any other has fuelled this cynical new phenomenon of shutting down legitimate criticism by disingenuously playing the mental health and race cards.”

He also had a dig at 18-year-old tennis player Emma Raducanu who dropped out of Wimbledon at the start of the month, saying dismissively that she had “some kind of panic attack” but “would probably have lost the match anyway”.

His fresh diatribes prompted scores of commentators to point out a discrepancy in his treatment of different public figures:

On Wednesday, USA Gymnastics confirmed Biles’s withdrawal from the women’s all-round final, a day after she pulled out from the women’s team final.

The sporting body said the 24-year-old is yet to decide whether to withdraw from her four individual finals, which are scheduled to take place next week.

It said in a statement:

The highly decorated gymnast also explained that she is prioritising her own mental health and well-being. She said: “After the performance I did, I just didn’t want to go on.

“I have to focus on my mental health. I just think mental health is more prevalent in sports right now.

“We have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do.

“I don’t trust myself as much anymore. Maybe it’s getting older. There were a couple of days when everybody tweets you and you feel the weight of the world.”

She added: “We’re not just athletes. We’re people at the end of the day and sometimes you just have to step back.

“I didn’t want to go out and do something stupid and get hurt. ​I feel like a lot of athletes speaking up has really helped.

“It’s so big, it’s the Olympic Games. At the end of the day, we don’t want to be carried out of there on a stretcher.”

Biles won four gold medals in Rio in 2016 and was aiming to become the first gymnast to retain a female all-around title at the Games since Vera Caslavska in 1968.

She successfully qualified for the final in first place but a mistake on her opening vault in Tuesday night’s team final prompted her to leave the arena with a US team medic.

Confirming her departure, Biles said: “It’s been really stressful these Olympic Games, not having an audience. It’s been a long week, a long Olympic process, a long year. We are just a little bit too stressed out. We should be out here having fun.

“I feel like I’m also not having as much fun and this Olympic Games I wanted it to be for myself and it felt like I was still doing it for other people. It hurts my heart that doing what I love has been taken away from me to please other people.”

We, for one, are in awe of her achievements and, most of all, her bravery.

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