Simone Biles will go down as one of the most impressive gymnasts in history. In fact, she’s often revered as the greatest female gymnast of all time, and is a proudly decorated Olympian. That’s why the 24-year-old’s performance on the vault during the women’’s all-around team final at the Tokyo Games was quite shocking.
Biles is known for impeccable technique and ability to execute complex maneuvers. In past events, judges didn’t know how to properly score her routines because the difficulty level was so ahead of her time. That’s why her performance on the vault was so out of character. Her air awareness was not there on that vault, performing a one and a half instead of a two and a half. Additionally, she took a huge step forward.
The team doctor examined her and she was able to leave the stadium on her own. She returned to the competition floor and informed her teammates that she had withdrawn from the meet. She removed her grips and put on her warm-up clothes, and continued to offer support during the rest of the all-around final. It’s safe to say that she became Team USA’s biggest cheerleader that night. The women’s team ended up winning the silver medal.
Why Did She Withdraw From Competition?
Originally, the report was that she withdrew from competition because of a medical issue. In an interview later on, Biles revealed that scratching her performance was due to a mental health issue. Prioritizing her own mental health is of the utmost importance, as optimal health is worth more than any medal. Stepping back from the competition was a calculated decision. Her fear was that she would prevent her teammates, who worked so hard to get to the Olympics, from medaling.
Biles said that people have to protect the mind and body, and that it was unfortunate to grapple with this during such an important moment. A high-stress situation like the all-around final can create internal panic. If you aren’t 100% focused on the technical tricks that athletes of Biles’ caliber must execute, the risk of injury is much higher. People took to social media immediately, calling Biles weak or saying that she let her team down. It’s sad that such a negative stigma exists around mental health, given that she would not receive the same response if she withdrew because of a broken ankle. Somehow, that is more “legitimate” in some people’s eyes.
If there’s one thing to know about Simone Biles, it’s that she’s not weak. In fact, she had an overwhelming amount of support for her decision to withdraw from fellow athletes and supporters. It outweighed all of the negative comments online. It’s only been three years since Biles revealed that she was a victim of sexual abuse from her former gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar. Biles is among the more than 100 female gymnasts who were abused by him.
Why Her Decision Is Admirable
It’s very stressful to perform under the pressure that these athletes endure. The lights, the expectations, and all the grueling hours that amount to that one moment create unbearable pressure. Even five-time Olympian Michael Phelps expressed his support for Biles’ withdrawal. Phelps has dealt with mental health issues for years, even during the height of his Olympic performances.
The reality is that it’s perfectly acceptable to not feel or be okay. Hopefully, Biles inspires other people who grapple with similar feelings to seek help and open a conversation about mental well-being. Mental health is equally as important as physical health, no matter who you are or how famous you are. There shouldn’t be a line that separates mental and physical health. The two are one and the same in that they are both health issues that affect the body.
Biles is a superhuman athlete, but she may have just landed her most inspiring move yet. Health is the real gold medal, and attending to it whenever necessary, even during an Olympic final, is the right time. Making the decision to do that may not be easy, and it is definitely not a sign of weakness.