Simone Biles, Thank you for Being the GOAT On and Off the Mat
If you haven’t heard the name Simone Biles then you have definitely been living under a rock. And if you need a good synopsis of Simone’s withdrawal from the team competition, this is a great overview. At 24 years old, Simone has won over 36 medals during the course of her impressive gymnastics career. 27 of those medals are gold, five are silver, and four are bronze. Simone won five of those medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, 4 of which were gold and one of which was bronze. For the current 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Biles has received a silver medal in the Women’s Team Final. For female gymnastics, Simone Biles is the absolute G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time). For any emerging gymnast, she is THE singular role model for this sport.
With great prestige comes great pressure. The pressure to be perfect all the time. The pressure to live up to people’s expectations. The pressure to succeed. Any human could 0 and likely would – crumble under that stress. Imagine being put under a media microscope, daily no less, and being constantly in the public eye. The media loves a hero, but sadly they also love to see a hero falter and fail. Simone put on a brave face and gave the world a flawless performance in the Rio Games and the World Championships. What the world did not see was the terrible abuse she (and many other athletes) endured under Dr. Larry Nasser (then Olympic doctor). Imagine all of that happening to you behind closed doors, with some adults in charge not even trusting the accounts they were given, while putting on a smile for the rest of the world. Simone is an incredibly brave role model to so many young girls and athletes with her ability to motivate others to speak up and out and inspire young girls to fight for their dreams. Simone has continued to fight for her goal of being the greatest gymnast of all time (which I think a lot of us agree…SHE IS!) despite the media’s constant and relentless scrutiny.
Before the competition in Tokyo started, Simone mentioned publicly – on many occasions – the weight that the pressure to repeat her success from Rio was to her. Just like Naomi Osaka bravely shared when she turned down media interviews for her tennis performances, Simone showed us that she was human. The stress was real, and she not only admitted it but embraced it. Yet, the media was relentless. “Can she pull it off?” “Will she hold her title?” Come on. We can do better. The headlines should have been, “Olympian Returns to her Beloved Sport.” Like some little girls right here in New Orleans pursuing a gymnastics career, she has dedicated a lot of hours and hard work to this sport. None of us can do what she can do. I mean, have you even tried? Her skills are amazing. As fans, we enjoy watching how beautifully she performs and how happy she seems doing it.
What we know today is that Simone withdrew from the Women’s Gymnastics team finals for her mental health. At that moment, the happiness and joy of competing was not there for her. Simone was strong enough to know that she was not in a good place to continue. While some criticize that, her true fans praise her. She realized she was in a dark place and removed herself from the pressure for her health. Mental health is so important and she realized it. Did she hide in a hole? Or hide in her bed? I know most of us would want to. Some of us would. But the GOAT got back out on the gymnastics floor (the very place causing her to have anxiety, fear, and possibly depression) to support her teammates. She was publicly cheering for her teammates, the same people that have been supporting her leading up to this moment. She encouraged, screamed and jumped for joy for the other gymnasts she had been training with. She watched others live out their dreams of winning an Olympic medal. So thank you, Simone Biles. You are truly an inspiration. Thank you for shining a light on mental health, especially after the brutal year we have all endured. Thank you for knowing when you needed to step aside for your own mental health. Thank you for being a cheerleader to your teammates. We support you and are truly in awe of your strength. And that is on AND OFF the mat.