The strength of Simone Biles should be celebrated.
Not only today, but it should be celebrated every time we discuss the decorated gymnast, the greatest who has ever lived.
With the weight of the world on her shoulders and a level of expectation that probably no other athlete has had to endure going into an Olympic Games, the 24-year-old Biles made the courageous decision to choose herself.
Biles withdrew from the team competition because she wasn’t in the right mental headspace to continue. She said that she didn’t want to cost her team a medal and took herself out of the competition to preserve the United States’ chances at placing.
As a young Black woman at the height of her profession, her decision to take a break and show her vulnerability is both inspiring and heroic.
“I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being, ” said Biles. “We have to protect our body and our mind. It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.”
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Without Biles, the United States team won silver. The Russian Olympic Committee won gold.
However, if you are anything like me or another sensible human being, the results of these gymnasts are the last thing on your mind. The pressure that not only the United States but the World puts on these athletes at times can be unbearable.
Naomi Osaka had to take a break from tennis to get herself right earlier this year after having her own mental health struggles and many people attacked her for it.
Swimmer Simone Manuel had to take time off from training after her Overtraining Syndrome made her suffer from anxiety and depression before the Olympic Games even began.
This is a huge problem that many athletes face across the world of sports for years and now we are seeing more and more of them looking out for themselves and their mental health.
“You usually don’t hear me say things like that because I usually persevere and push through things, but not to cost the team a medal,” said Biles. “So they were like: OK, if Simone says this, we need to take it pretty serious. I had the correct people around me to do that.”
According to Biles, the women’s gymnastics team is taking a “mental rest day” on Wednesday.
“It’s been really stressful this Olympic Games,” Biles said. “Just as a whole, not having an audience. There are a lot of different variables going into it. It’s been a long week. It’s been a long Olympic process. It’s been a long year. Just a lot of different variables, and I think we’re just a little bit too stressed out. But we should be out here having fun, and sometimes that’s not the case.”
No matter how much people want to put athletes into a separate category because of their physical prowess, they can’t ignore the fact that these individuals are human beings first and foremost.
The pressure that Biles was facing was probably indescribable. Imagine having an entire country’s hopes for Olympic glory weighing on your shoulders and the rest of the world looking for you to fail.
Biles’ strength can’t be understated. When the stakes were the highest, she decided to choose her health which will encourage others in this world to do the same. And to do this as a Black woman in the world’s spotlight makes it even more impressive. She’s become an example of not succumbing to the world’s pressures and expectations.
It’s the most impressive thing she’s done in her career.
What she did today is worth more than a few gold medals, it may have saved a few lives.