Simone Biles won nationals w/broken toes in both feet, worlds w/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
— Kavitha A. Davidson (@kavithadavidson) July 27, 2021
Statement from USA Gymnastics: "Simone has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue. She will be assessed daily to determine medical clearance for future competitions."
— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) July 27, 2021
There’s a cost to greatness, and it’s crippling our athletes. On Tuesday night in Tokyo, and Simone Biles’s jarring decision. https://t.co/nYAJgTG1D1
— Barry Svrluga (@barrysvrluga) July 27, 2021
Here’s the problem with establishing yourself as the best at your chosen profession — the best mechanic, the best cheesemaker, the best accountant, the best gymnast: Maintaining that standard over weeks and months and years takes its toll, even if we can’t see it. The customers, the public, know only that standard, and the job is to continue to deliver, full stop. That is a burden, regardless of the trade. At the wrong time, it can become crippling.
So here was Simone Biles, unquestionably the greatest gymnast on the planet, crippled — on the stage she owns, performing the tasks she had trained a lifetime to pull off, in the moment that mattered. Her job was to lead the U.S. women’s gymnastics team to another gold medal, this one at the Tokyo Olympics. When it came time to do that, the best to ever do what she does decided she was more hindrance than help. She stepped aside, pulled on a white sweatsuit and cheered on her teammates — to silver, not gold.
“It’s been really stressful this Olympic Games,” Biles said afterward. “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.”…
“I usually persevere and push through things,” Biles said. “But not to cost the team a medal.”
She did not say what her plans were moving forward in Tokyo. The individual all-around final is Thursday, followed by finals for the vault, floor exercise, uneven bars and balance beam in the week ahead. Biles has qualified for all of them…
I wrote about Simone Biles and why for dope Black women like her, breaking records is never enough https://t.co/nUOBCtZjkv
— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) July 27, 2021
… [H]ere’s the thing: It’s okay for Biles just to be amazing. Let her greatness stand on its own. We can be wowed and celebrate her without also expecting her to single-handedly revive gymnastics after a sexual abuse scandal, while also leading little Black girls to balance beams all over the nation.
It was beautiful to watch Sunisa Lee, the first Hmong American to compete for Team USA, gracefully go ham on the uneven bars after Biles bowed out of competition. And just as inspiring to witness Jordan Chiles, another Black woman on the squad, step in for Biles and step up in two events. If they woke up in time Tuesday morning, little girls of color saw two stars performing on the world’s stage. That representation goes a long way when fueling a dream.
Years ago, this happened for the sport’s biggest star.
“I remember when Gabby Douglas won, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, if she can do it, then I can do it,'” Biles said during a promotional event in 2020.
Now, Biles embodies the dream more than any other hero on the Olympic stage. She’s supposed to be some sort of Moses, leading girls who look like her to the promised land where they will be free to do Yurchenko double pikes without the fear of someone mispronouncing their names or trying to touch their natural hair…
The pressure on her, both from the fans and the coaches and herself is tremendous. But she said something that I think is very important. Some of the greatest athletes perform their best in front of people. They pull the energy of the people in the stands into themselves. She may very well be one of those people.
She is also someone who has enough self-awareness to know when she can be a liability.
Gin & Tonic
@japa21: I suspect she felt primarily that she could be a liability to herself.
It’s sad but whether she’s the best, the second best or the fifty-fifth best is beside the point.
No medal is worth inviting permanent damage.
@NotMax: Thank you for recommending Amazon Prime’s Follow the Money. In the middle of the 9th episode, and just love it. Would be up for watching another season. Very well written; good characters.
Leaves Amazon after July 31; ten episodes, and the story moves.
Re Simone Biles: I think we put too much pressure and expectations on our athletes. Being part of NBC’s marketing juggernaut cannot be good, either. I got sick of the United Airlines commercials.
The Olympics is who was the best in competition. That day. Another day, another result. When you’re at that level of competition.
@Gin & Tonic: this. When she was doing her vault, they showed her head/eyes/arm position in relation to “spatial awareness”. Gymnasts have to have that in order to do all the twists/flips/etc in the air, and on that vault pass you could see it in her face/arm positioning that she didn’t know where she was. She’s been speaking, recently, how she’s second guessing herself, not taking the same risks like she would just a few years ago. Idk if this is something that will pass, or if this permanent. I’m simply going to celebrate her amazing body of work and be glad that she understood when to pull out for her team, and for herself.
James E Powell
I follow sports, so I’m not surprised by the a hole comments about Biles all over twitter. Also not surprised at the a holes who are making said comments. The world is full of a holes.
Nobody wanted Biles to win gold more than Biles wanted to win gold.
James E Powell
I didn’t notice “Follow the Money” and I note that it is leaving Prime in five days! Pressure!
I have enjoyed many of @NotMax’s recommendations and I have not thanked them enough for them.
Thank you @NotMax!
After all this time I’d hoped Ms
Biles had a clear grasp of both physical and mental states needed to perform her feats with such exhilarating freedom. Glad to see that she does, and hope to see her later if but only if that tone is restored.
@japa21: Having the self-knowledge and the courage to say no is pretty unusual.
@Gin & Tonic: If she had an injured shoulder that would have prevented her from performing at her best and would have dramatically increased the likelihood of further injury would anyone be saying this? Why say it now?
Of course, the thing is that often The Best, from Michael Jordan to Simone Biles, effortlessly slip on the mantle of greatness and display the glory of achievement without a thought to any burden. This awareness of their greatness and ability to revel in their own power, is simply another thing that separates them from lesser athletes.
It is also a testament to Biles that she is wise enough to know when to step aside. And I can easily imagine when a selfish or foolish coach might have tried to goad Biles into continuing and cause disaster for herself and her team.
There have been athletes who took that risk and sometimes made it work.
There’s a more subtle story here that is being told, but not really amplified.
Biles indicated that she wasn’t planning on competing this Olympics but didn’t want her legacy to be defined by being a victim of Larry Nassar. In many ways, she’s only here because USA Gymnastics (among so many others) failed her, and she’s taking control of her own story. While that’s generally good, it goes MUCH better when the people who failed you are now supporting you, and I don’t see that anyone is actually doing that. She’s still the golden goose, and everyone knows it, and nobody will let her forget it. And everyone is making things extremely clear who is in control.
‘Hey, we’re worried about Covid’. “Too bad, go entertain us”
‘Hey, we’d like to desexualize these outfits.’ “Too bad, you’re here to earn medals.”
Good for her for putting herself first. Still seems pretty clear she still doesn’t have the kind of support she deserves, though.
Jim, Foolish Literalist
@Elizabelle – @James E Powell
::blushes, self-consciously wiggles toes in the sand:: Aw, shucks. Thanks.
Gin & Tonic
@Omnes Omnibus: I’ve had a long day and seem to be completely missing your point. I think she dropped out of the team competition because she felt she could hurt herself. I don’t think I implied anything else.
@prostratedragon: I suspect she doesn’t though. Physically, sure. But mentally, this didn’t start today. She’s been talking about it for a while. Something has been building that didn’t get the kind of care it needed, and it boiled over when the pressure was highest.
That’s actually pretty damaging. It draws even more focus to it, and unless people are atypically understanding, it’s often met with unhelpful reactions because their only real investment in her was her competitive dominance, and she took that away from them right at the moment they were most demanding it.
@Gin & Tonic: I’ve read an awful lot of people today who suggested that she made a selfish decision. If that was where you were going, I was pushing back.
@Jim, Foolish Literalist: This seems like a great opportunity for people who never previously cared about gymnastics or Olympics to opine about how the black girl cost the US a gold and what a disgrace that is.
I guess Charlie beat Tucker and Ben Shapiro to the punch.
@James E Powell: You’d like it! As NotMax warned, takes about 2 episodes to get going.
And: some scenes with snow. That’s needed, in a hot and humid summer.
@Jim, Foolish Literalist:
I know who Simone Biles is. I have no idea who Kirk is and shall happily remain ignorant.
But I know exactly WHAT he is.
@Martin: One of the things that few her detractors are looking at is that her decision could have been what ensured that the team medaled at all. A fall or a poor performance could have dropped the US team out entirely.
@Jim, Foolish Literalist:
Thanks. I now know not to go near Twitter tonight.
OT but in the same ballpark: The other day some news anchor was noting the total medals won by the US and Russia. For half a second I wondered whether I had woke up in the 70s when there had been striving between the US and the Soviet Union for Olympic supremacy.
I hate those times. Although I often cheer for American athletes because I may have seen more stories about them and more easily empathize with their struggles and achievements, ultimately I just enjoy watching outstanding competitors do what they do.
ETA. I also see US v China totals, as though we must be mortal enemies.
When I’m stressed or ruminating about something negative that happened earlier that day, I’m just not able to put 100% of my effort into my Jazzercise class. I limp-noodle the dances while brooding. If Simone is anything like me, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that she risks death or permanent disability (even more so than usual) if she tries to vault/tumble/etc. right now. Even more heartbreaking that she’s only competing because she didn’t want the world to forget about abuses within US gymnastics.
I would bet losing her sense of where she was in space during that last vault had to shock her. One of her strengths was always having that sense.
@Brachiator: it’s also really annoying when commentators always say the names of Anglo athletes, but then default to “the Chinese” whenever it’s their turn. Most noticeable when I watched diving, where they slobbered all over Tom Daly while constantly alluding to “the Chinese” (Cao Yuan and Chen Aisen). At least the women’s volleyball commentators were really good during the US-China match, very admiring of athletes on both sides.
@debbie: I haven’t watched gymnastics yet today, but I might just skip it and watch Jordan Chiles’ and Sunisa Lee’s routines on Youtube. Really don’t feel like hearing Nastia Liukin and the guy commentator yammering about Simone’s mental state or whatever.
Everyone, in any sport, gets to the point that they can’t compete at the highest level any longer. I can be temporary or it can be the end of a great career. But the point is that everyone good at something, at some point gets surpassed at some time, even if no one ever beats their record. Age, injury, and yes, even motivation. Some will compete as long as possible and often if they do, it’s often injury that gets them, because as good as they may have been at one time, no one gets to keep that going forever. It’s been said many times by many people but time is the great equalizer.
I’m not saying any of the above relates to Simone Biles at this time. She is very, very good, has performed at the very top of the game injured, and she is the one that knows her limitations.
@Jim, Foolish Literalist: “Weak people”! Pound for pound Biles is probably one of the strongest people in the world. And most focused. Not good enough for Charlie I guess.
@E.: Charlie Kirk is the grifter who somersaulted into the Wingnut Wurlitzer arena by wandering around a college campus wearing nothing but adult diapers ‘to own the libs’. He was Jerry Falwell Jr’s partner until Falwell got pushed out of his dad’s Liberty U gig.
In other words, Charlie Kirk is so far beyond embarrassment, it’s somewhere between ‘essential job requirement’ and ‘sexual kink he’s forcing the rest of us to observe.’
If you look up fucking asshole in the dictionary you should find charlie’s picture. It will be among many others who have the same affliction of thinking far, far better of themselves than anyone else in the world does and who think that their opinion matters in some way, which it absolutely does not. IOW they are so full of themselves that they can’t see that their position in humanity is about a thousand miles below the line that denotes any relevance to the rest of the world whatsoever. They also don’t understand that if they jumped down a live volcano and were melted within 2 seconds the rest of the world would put aside their distaste for post mortem cheering and raise a glass to the betterment of humankind.
Yeah, this kind of crap is annoying. It is magnified when the sports anchor has bren chosen because they are part of the stable of high priced network “talent” and not someone who knows the sport or the competitors. If they are going to cover the games well, they should learn how to pronounce the athletes’ names.
Simone Biles is the GOAT whether or not she medals, whether or not she even participates again in the Olympics. She has shown what she can do, and what she can do is beyond the capacity of
ordinary mortalsanyone else. She’s turned the world of gymnastics on its ear, showing how strong, disciplined, and just plain brilliant women athletes can be.
What she has had to overcome to achieve that is mind-boggling.
Biles is a hero and a giant already. She doesn’t need the medals; at least, not in my opinion.
As much as I’d be thrilled to see her with multiple golds, I’m more concerned that she be healthy and happy.
??? To Simone. You’ve deserved more than one mental health day. So impressed with her decision today.
25ish years ago I was in library school. For one of the classes I read a book Little Girls In Pretty Boxes. It was about the training of female gymnasts and figure skaters. It was chilling what they went through. This was before the sexual abuse had even been mentioned. There was/is a lot of psychological and physical abuse in the system.
Simone Biles has probably gone through a lot more than we know. I’m glad she is taking care of herself.
Adam L Silverman
@Gin & Tonic: This is it exactly. You cannot do what she does successfully, which also means safely, if you can’t keep your mental focus. If she’s unable to focus right now than even doing a practice run of one of her routines is somewhere between dangerous to fatal.
I’m not a world class athlete, just a gym rat and martial artist. Back about 15 years or so ago I was at an aikido seminar in Orlando. Was there with a bunch of people I’d been training with for years. Ikeda Sensei, who I really like training with was teaching the seminar. Friday night, not a problem at all. Training goes fine. We all go out to dinner afterwards. Saturday morning one of my closest friends from aikido gets there, he couldn’t make Friday night’s/the first class because of work. He also didn’t have a hotel room so I told him we’d get a roll away and he could crash in my room. Half way through the morning class I’m suddenly hyper aware and vigilant and on the edge of a full blown panic attack. This has never happened to me before and certainly not in any dojo I’ve ever been in. So I bowed off the mat and waited for the break. On the break I told my friend what was going on, that I was going to bow out of the rest of the weekend and head home ASAP, he could have my hotel room – I’d let the hotel know. I went and explained what was going on to Ikeda Sensei and let my sensei know as well. Went back to the hotel, explained to the desk what was going on, paid for Friday night, they held the room for my friend to pay for Saturday, grabbed my stuff, got in the car, and headed home. As quickly as I could safely get out of Orlando and back to Tampa where my parents were watching my dog for the weekend. I called to let them know I was on the way, said I was okay, and told them I’d explain when I got home.
I wasn’t worried I was going to hurt myself. I’ve had periods of enhanced awareness and focus on the mat, what we’d call ma’ai. This was different. Everything was too bright. Everything was too loud. Everyone was too close. It was like hyper-claustrophobia verging on panic. What I was worried about is I would hurt someone else. There are a lot of people – those senior to me, my peers, and even those junior to me – that have far better technique. However, there are few people that are as strong as me in terms of the ability to project ki (chi) through my technique on the mat. I spend almost all my time training dialed way back because I know that if I don’t I’m going to hurt someone not because I mean to, but because there aren’t a lot of people I’ve ever trained with that can actually handle it if I don’t. Of the people that I regularly train with, most of them get this and understand it. A couple don’t and think I’m not as good as others think I am because I just really don’t care what they do, other than they’re not doing it wrong or in a dangerous manner, when I’m training with them. And I’m happy to let them go on thinking that. I’ve had training partners who paired with me when I tested for my second and third degree black belts tell me they were just trying to keep me from getting too wound up in the testing environment so they didn’t get hurt from me just cutting loose. These were people that outranked me at the time.
I can count on one hand the people I’m comfortable actually training all out with and I am very grateful to have either had the chance to train with them – one of them, a close friend, passed away a decade ago – or continue to have a chance to do so. Two of them are two of my closest friends and we actually have, or would have if it wasn’t a pandemic, a dojo together where we share instructor duties.
For whatever reason, my mental focus got dialed way past where it was supposed to be that weekend. And that made the dojo an unsafe environment. So I stopped training as quickly as possible before I ended up hurting someone without meaning too. I don’t know what set my awareness off, whether it was someone else on the mat or something else, but by the time I got home I was a lot less amped up.
Biles did the absolute right thing here. If her mental and emotional focus is off it is unsafe for her to be competing.
Adam L Silverman
@Leto: Yep. It’s like knowing when you’ve got to stand down a teammate for their own good and make sure their battle buddy is with them until they’re out of trouble.
Adam L Silverman
@Emma: Watch the Fiji V Argentina rugby semifinal on replay. You get to see Semi Radradra make a simple step that forces all three Argentines trying to tackle him just miss him in time and space as he then goes in to score a try.
@Adam L Silverman: Sevens. It’s just not the same.
Adam L Silverman
@Omnes Omnibus: I know, but watching the Fijians is still fun.
@Adam L Silverman: My main issue with sevens is that it is always played in the summer and the pitch is hard and it hurts when you get tackled. Give me mud.
Adam L Silverman
@Omnes Omnibus: I can understand that.
I also think that if they’re going to take a 15s game and cut the roster in just under half, then they should cut the size of the field down as well. Which would make the game look less awkward and allow for longer game play.
@Adam L Silverman: watching the interview with her teammates and they spotted their battle buddy in trouble with that vault. And like good battle buddies, stepped in to check to make sure she was ok, supported her decision, and stepped up to deliver an amazing performance for silver.
Adam L Silverman
@Leto: Yep. Her teammates get it. Which is the only thing that really matters. If she’s able to get through it before the individual competitions next week it is going to be because of her teammates’ support. And if she can’t, she was already ready to pass the torch and is, as everyone has noted, only in Tokyo right now out of a sense of duty to that team to try to help get them past one last terrible thing that USA Gymnastics put them through collectively and her and many of her teammates through individually.
She said in an interview that she during the vault she realized she didn’t know where she was in the air. For any gymnast, even on relatively easy techniques, that’s very dangerous and can mean landing on your head and breaking your neck. For an elite gymnast, doing what they do, even more so. I’m glad she did not try another vault or try to continue in that state.
Need a redirect? Check Jordan Thompson of US women’s volleyball in her first Olympics tournament. Playing yooge!
Good Twitter thread on what is going on with Biles from a former gymnast and diver.
@Omnes Omnibus: Good thread. And now I know what to call it when I lapse while doing something far simpler than a reverse double Tchaikovsky with a peppermint twist, as one does.
Maybe they should spend the next ten years trying to do what she does, 1/10th as well, and then they can talk about her choices.
@brantl: No one should be expecting them to be a gymnast, but clearly Biles’ achievements are far outstripped by their accomplishments in other areas. Let’s ask them to list them.
O. Felix Culpa
@Patricia Kayden: Truth.
Yes, way late, but it seems like Biles had what I would call for lack of a better word, a mental lapse. It’s like going into a final exam and forgetting everything that you studied for. Usually, you take a few deep breaths and it starts to come back, but with less than split seconds to do something, that’s not going to happen, and the risk of doing it incorrectly could be permanent disability. NFW. It still makes me angry that more than 20 years ago Kerri Strug was forced to compete with an injury that might have been made permanent by the landings she was required to perform. She wasn’t a hero, she was somebody’s wage slave. Somebody who somehow failed to see that gymnasts were being sexually abused all around them.
Also, while it’s great to support Simone Biles, look at this headline, still the “GOAT.” As in, still mostly celebrated for all those flips and twists and highwire gymnastics. How about Simone Biles, more than just a GOAT, a human being who set a great example for other athletes and especially women who constantly punish themselves for failing to meet completely excessive expectations.