Former Olympian and Montgomery County native applauds Simon Biles’ priority to ‘take care’ of mental health

Former Olympian and Montgomery County native, Dominique Dawes is praising Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the women’s gymnastics final at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 24-year-old decided she wasn’t in the right headspace to compete.

READ MORE: Simone Biles withdrew from Olympics gymnastics final to protect team, self

Dawes, the hometown Olympic champion and retired gymnast opened the Dominique Dawes Gymnastics Academy in Clarksburg just a year ago, where she says, it’s all about "encouraging and empowering kids rather than competing against one another."

Dawes told Fox 5’s Ayesha Khan Wednesday that back when she was competing in the ’90s and in the early 2000’s —discussing the pressures of being a ‘perfect’ athlete and the impact of it on mental health, was something that she and other athletes were not allowed to bring up.

Dawes went on to say that they were taught to "shut off what was going on inside and to not believe it."

READ MORE: 'OK not to be OK': Mental health takes top role at Tokyo Olympics

"Today these young athletes are not willing to take that sacrifice and that’s A-ok," said Dawes.

"You should not need to make that sacrifice for the betterment of the team or the team to get on the podium, it has lifelong implications."

Khan also spoke with Kamakshi Sankar Boyle, a Rockville-based licensed clinical social worker, who advises on how adults should take the responsibility of pushing young athletes to open up when it comes to their mental health.

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"Being able to have that open dialogue where both people are sharing their perspectives like both the parent and the child, as in, is this working for you?" said Boyle.

"And having that compassion and empathy for your child, if they need to take a break if they need to slow down and that’s okay too."