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At the age of 24, Simone Arianne Biles is the most decorated gymnast of all time. The beloved American competitor has prioritized her love for the sport against world-class odds and damaging abuse by the former doctor of the U.S. women’s national gymnastics team. Biles has repeatedly exemplified bravery, and she did so once more upon arrival at the delayed Olympic 2020 Games in Tokyo.
While gliding mid-air, the gold medalist twisted fewer times than anticipated during a vault performance. Biles later explained to journalists that she was having “… a little bit of the twisties.” In an effort to protect American representation, Biles took a step back and withdrew from the team competition. The announcement of Biles’ need to focus on her mental health was met with a mixed reception from global viewers and enthusiasts.
The co-author of the popular read “Loving Sports When They Don’t Love You Back: Dilemmas of the Modern Fan,” Kavitha Davidson, offered Twitter a reminder: “Simone Biles won nationals [with] broken toes in both feet, worlds [with] a kidney stone, and has carried the burden of being a face of sexual assault survivors as a national institution failed to support them. Half of y’all yelling about ‘toughness’ can’t handle wearing a mask in Wegman’s.”
The claim: Did Simone Biles pull out of the Olympics completely?
Our findings: False. The American gymnast pulled out from the previous team event and Thursday’s (July 29) all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Biles’ U.S. advisors issued a statement saying she will “…continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether or not to participate in next week’s individual event finals.” The gold medalist is taking care of her mental health.
The last time global fans saw Biles at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she became the first American woman gymnast to win four gold medals at an individual Games session. At 4-foot-8, the then 19-year-old placed enormous numbers across the boards among the Olympic system of five single finals. The gymnast categories that she dominated with gold medals include the team event, the floor, the individual all-around, and the vault. Additionally, in 2016, Biles garnered a bronze medal on the balance beam.
With the realization that she did not mentally feel like her best self this time around, Biles sat before Olympic reporters and explained the preliminary conclusions, “…the girls need to do the rest of the competition without me.” Per her press conference details, Biles’ Olympic advisors assured her she was “fine” in response. However, the leading gymnast raised her concerns stating, “No, I know I’m going to be fine, but I can’t risk a medal for the team. So, I need to call it.”
Fellow gymnastics national team members Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum stepped up to complete the preceding event. In the face of mental health impediments and experiencing some public scrutiny, Biles helped articulate a need that is often invalidated as nonexistent. Despite any wellness challenges, she aided her team toward their silver medal victory.
During a Tokyo live broadcast, Chiles affirmed, “We were all… very proud of each other. With all the circumstances that had happened at the beginning… we had to go out there and show the world [our dedication]. Like, no matter what is thrown at us, we’re just gonna do it.” Biles, who was seen bringing her teammates chalk for their hands, was also said to be reassuring. McCallum confirmed the withdrawn influence, “…believed in us. She knew that we could do it… that really helped change our mentality.”
Beyond exceptional sportsmanship and an uncharacteristic stumble, it may be easy to overlook all Biles has accomplished before the Tokyo Olympics. The Texas native and her siblings were adopted by their grandparents after experiencing bouts in foster care. After a 2003 Bannon’s Gymnastix field trip, she committed herself to learn new acrobatics at the age of 6. The trainers in attendance regarded her natural ability and mailed a letter to Biles’ guardians urging them to place the child in gymnastics classes.
The iconic tyke succeeding became homeschooled to allow a more flexible workout schedule. By 13, she trained as many as 32 hours a week. From the start of her opening meet, the 2012 American Classic, she placed first all-around and at the vault. More than practice, Biles studied and observed. Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas became an inspiration for her tumbling dreams.
The rest of her record-breaking trajectory is archived. She affirmed to Vogue in preparation for the continuing Games, “Growing up, I didn’t see very many Black gymnasts.” Now, women worldwide can see Biles do something unprecedented: Prioritize her peace.
The athlete accumulated over two dozen World Championship and Olympic medals. Has she not earned this right? Media headlines originally alluded to Biles being physically hurt. Soon, different dialogue emerged with viral questions. Is it habitual to trivialize the need for self-care? Renowned athletes such as tennis star Naomi Osaka, beforehand, announced her French Open withdrawal. The racket-swinging titleholder verified both “long bouts of depression” and “huge waves of anxiety.” Similar inquiries and evidence punctuate a consensus: Do we forget overachievers are humans, too?
The national governing body of gymnastics in the United States issued a statement: “After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being.”
Former teenage gymnast Jacoby Miles also shared her support for the gold-winning heroine’s decision. Biles’ potential consequences for another disconnect between her mind and physique may be graver than some Olympic spectators might assume. Miles’ experience with “mental blocks’’ while performing a double back dismount off uneven parallel bars resulted in her becoming differently abled. The American athlete landed on her neck and is presently paralyzed. Miles posted on social media, “… it only took one bad time of getting lost… in the air.” Her vulnerability echoed the sentiments of an added exemplary role model.
Passing the torch, another teen sensation Suni Lee substituted Biles on the floor exercise. Ahead of the event, the NBC Olympics website predicted, “With the most difficult uneven bars routine in the world and two balance beam sets under incredibly nerve-racking conditions under her belt, Lee is in prime position to contend for her first Olympic gold in the individual all-around…” And though the 18-year-old encountered some hardships approaching, she won gold at the all-around competition.
The newcomer’s story is worth recording. Lee’s inspiration, her father, was recently paralyzed in an accident. Also, the new gold medalist lost an aunt and uncle to COVID-19. She was the first Hmong American to compete in the Olympics and proved to possess the adroitness to follow in Biles’ footsteps. The principal gymnast has mentored her.
With respect to new wins, there is much for Biles’ believers to observe still potentially. In reference to next week, as per CBS, “…a gymnast who needs to be replaced after qualification — for final events — can only be replaced with another qualifying gymnast. Therefore, none of the alternates can replace Biles.” The top idol posted on Instagram that she felt the “weight of the world” and has remained within the Tokyo arena to encourage her teammates’ endeavors. The floor mat veteran has kept her spirits high — tweeting to followers:
“The outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics…”