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Remember when Pixar’s Inside Out taught children that you can feel multiple things at a time? That a memory can be both happy and sad? That emotions are complicated and not everything is simplicistic?
There are some adults (mostly white men) who need to watch this in regards to Simone Biles.
You can feel both disappointment and pride over Simone Biles’s decisions not to compete in the 2020 Olympics. She can still be the GOAT and need to prioritize her mental and physical health. These are not mutually exclusive.
You can be both sad that she didn’t and isn’t competing AND proud of her for prioritizing her mental health and not participating when she’s risking her physical health.
What I’m seeing instead, is a lot of single minded mentality, especially from Biles’s critics. They seem to think that her not competing eliminates all her other amazing accomplishments. Biles has more gold medals than the total of the next decorated American female gymnast, Shannon Miller (Miller was an amazing gymnast, but including the Goodwill Games, Miller has 13 golds, 9 silvers, and 4 bronze, totaling 26. Biles has 27 gold medals.). Not performing at the Olympics does not eradicate that. Just like one bad performance doesn’t make any other athlete not great.
Think about it in terms of baseball.
Imagine that your team is in the 7th game of the World Series. Your team’s pitcher has the best win record of in your league. Yet, in the first two innings he’s already given up multiple runs. The coach doesn’t keep him in; he pulls him from the game. There’s nothing physically wrong with the pitcher, but in that moment he’s not mentally where he needs to be. Keeping him in the game would actually be more detrimental to the team’s chances.
That is what Simone did during the team competition.
She acknowledged that where she was mentally was going to cost the team. After her balked vault, the U.S. was already. point behind the ROC. If she had continued, the US might have posted poor scores instead of what Jordan Chiles was able to contribute. Because she didn’t compete the US was able to win silver. They won silver! If she had continued they might not have even medaled.
As for the individual events, she is prioritizing her physical health of medals and that does show bravery, especially when representing a country like the US that only seems to celebrate gold. If you’ve watch the videos she’s posting on IG, it’s clear she cannot currently land any twisting. She shouldn’t be competing. It’s easy to compare her to someone like Michael Phelps who also experienced great pressure. He’s talked openly about suffering from depression and even participated in a documentary about the pressure facing Olympic athletes. But here’s a huge difference between what Phelps does and what Biles faces – if Phelps isn’t performing well, he’s not risking major injuries, broken bones, or paralysis. If Biles misses a landing she risks all of these.
It is 100% the correct decision. As everyone in the gymnastics community has indicated. I’m so glad we’re moving pass the era where we forced athletes to compete to their own personal determent. I’ve seen people compare her to the 1996 Olympic competitor, Kerri Strug, whose coaches made her vault on an injured ankle. She didn’t want to, but was forced to. For what? It turns out for a medal the Americans would have won regardless. This is the same year that 15-year-old Dominique Moceanu competed while recovering from a stress fracture, and she landed on her head on the beam and received no medical attention. These women were Both of them retired shortly after that Olympics. Let’s remember that 1996 was also the first year that Larry Nassar was on staff. It might not have been safe for them to receive medical attention. Why are we proud of this tradition?
I, like many, was excited to see what Simone Biles could do during these Olympics. I’m saddened not to see it. But I’m happy she’s taking the time she needs to address her mental health. I’m excited by our team winning silver, Suni Lee’s gold in the all-around, and MyKayla Skinner’s silver on vault. Biles isn’t the only one on the team, and it’s been wonderful to see the others shine. If you’re struggling to hold both of these types of emotions at the same time, maybe it’s time for you to re-watch Inside Out and refresh the message.