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Aly Raisman discusses mental impact on gymnasts of not having fans in Olympic arena

The Olympic trials in the United States had fans in the stands, unlike the actual Games.
/ Source: TODAY

After Simone Biles' shocking withdrawal from the gymnastics team finals on Tuesday, former Olympian Aly Raisman suggested to TODAY that the coronavirus precautions being taken in Tokyo might have affected her former teammate's emotional state.

Biles told TODAY in a separate interview that she had withdrawn from the Olympic women's gymnastics team competition because she mentally did not feel able to compete.

"Physically, I feel good, I'm in shape," she told Hoda Kotb exclusively on TODAY. "Emotionally, that kind of varies on the time and moment. Coming here to the Olympics and being the head star isn't an easy feat, so we're just trying to take it one day at a time and we'll see."

Raisman, a three-time gold medalist who competed alongside Biles at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, said that the empty arena could be a mental challenge for the athletes. There are no spectators at the Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus, though there were crowds at the Olympic trials in the United States.

"If I were the national team coordinator, I would have had no fans at Olympic trials and possibly even championships to get them used to what it would be like at the Olympic Games," said Raisman. "I don’t know if these athletes have ever competed at Olympic Games without fans, maybe at training camp, but it's not the same thing."

TODAY's Hoda Kotb, who was present at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre when Biles withdrew from the team competition and was replaced by Jordan Chiles, noted that Biles has talked in the past about the importance of having a crowd. Raisman agreed that the energy of a crowd can help a gymnast who might be having a tough time.

"I think the excitement from fans ... can really help you if you're feeling tired. It gives you a little extra oomph and momentum, so I thought about that," Raisman said. "I wonder if at the Olympic trials, if they shouldn't have had fans at least for one day, but I know that everyone wants to make money, but I think it's important to get (athletes) mentally prepared."

In an earlier statement, USA Gymnastics said that Biles would be "assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions." Biles told TODAY that she wasn't sure she would compete in Thursday's all-around competition.

"We're going to take it day by day, and we're just going to see," Biles said.