Ko backs Biles

Women's golf star Lydia Ko on Tuesday backed the decision of US gymnast Simone Biles to pull out of several Olympic events to protect her mental health, saying it was "a powerful statement".

04 August 2021 | Sports

NAMPA / AFP

New Zealand's world number 11 Lydia Ko knows all about having the pressure of the spotlight on her from a young age as she tore up the golf record books as a teenager.

"I think some people may say: 'Hey, like is she running away from all that pressure and everything?'," Ko told a press conference at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

"But I think it's incredibly strong and vulnerable of her to be able to make a decision like that," added the 24-year-old Rio silver medallist.

US star Biles withdrew during the team final last week and then pulled out of several other individual events.

Not an easy decision

She was due to start yesterday in the last women's final of the Games, on the beam, where she will again be under intense scrutiny.

"At the end of the day it was such a powerful statement. I think (tennis star) Naomi Osaka did that at the French Open a few months ago as well.

"Almost I think that's a harder decision (to pull out) than actually going through with it all."

At the age of 14, Ko became the youngest player, male or female, to win a professional tournament at the New South Wales Open in 2012.

At 15 she was the youngest player to win a US LPGA Tour event and at the age of 18 was the youngest to capture a major at the 2015 Evian Championship.

The Seoul-born Ko, then aged 19, took silver behind Park In-bee at the Rio Olympics. But her dominance waned as she went through a succession of coaches, with her ranking slipping to a low of 55 in 2020.

She broke a three-year title drought at the Lotte Championship in Hawaii in April.

Two weeks earlier she had carded a sensational 10-under 62 in her final round at the ANA Inspiration, one of the five women's majors.

Ko admitted her confidence had been hit during her long slump.

"I think at times confidence is the most important club in the bag," she said. "It might not literally be a golf club, but it's a big key."

Ko said her own struggles and the pressure she felt at a young age meant she could empathise with athletes such as fellow 24-year-old Biles and Osaka, who is 23.

"I don't know exactly what they're going through because every athlete and every player has their own journey," she said.

"So even though it's relatable, it's so different. But I think it's all credit to her to make a decision like that. All respects to her."

Ko will tee off her Tokyo 2020 challenge on Wednesday in the signature three-ball in the company of her fellow Rio medallists, South Korea's Park and China's Feng Shanshan.

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