July 29, 2021

Simone Biles

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“Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic title. The American gymnastics superstar withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being. USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready.” AP News

Many on both sides support Biles’s decision to withdraw:

“Had Biles stayed in the contest yesterday and continued to perform as far below her usual scores as she did on that first vault, she would’ve dragged down the team score much further than anything her teammates could’ve compensated for. Her choice not to compete might’ve dealt a blow to the overall score — but only if we assume that she would’ve gone on to perform as the incredible, flawless Simone Biles we’ve all come to expect. Based on what she’s told us, there’s little reason to think she was physically or mentally capable of performing that way yesterday. Nor is it fair to criticize her as if she should’ve been able to simply snap her fingers and carry on perfectly as if nothing had gone wrong, as if she could’ve done so if she’d just had the right attitude.”
Alexandra DeSanctis, National Review

“What sometimes comes across as arrogance, with braggadocious claims of being the greatest of all time — as Biles signaled with her GOAT leotard — should also be thought of as the necessary mindset needed to compete at the highest level. It takes incredible self-confidence to believe that you can launch yourself off a springboard, contort, invert and spin your body multiple times before landing safely back on earth. Such a mental demand leaves no room for self-doubt

“I, too, have burst into tears at the end of an Ironman triathlon race, unsure whether the emotional response was elation from finishing the grueling 226 kilometers (140.6 miles) of swimming, cycling and running or the disappointment of not doing better. Similar tears are shed by amateur and elite athletes before, during and after competition with little understanding of the cause or their underlying mental state. We all know that elite performance is in the mind, but we still lack clarity on the mechanisms that underpin that process.”
Tim Culpan, Bloomberg

“Gymnastics at an elite level is too dangerous a sport to participate in if your concentration isn’t where it needs to be. That’s especially true for Biles, who performs feats so difficult that other women don’t even attempt them. Two months ago she landed a Yurchenko double pike vault, the first female to do so in competition. (Few men have ever done it, per NBC.) If her head’s not in the game, she could break her neck.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“You can learn a lot about a subculture by the slang it develops. Gymnastics has a lot of slang around fear: the twisties, headcasing, mental block, bailing, balking. Gymnastics is obviously physically demanding with a high injury rate. But it is extremely difficult psychologically as well. Many of the skills could kill you. When Kevin Durant's foot was off by an inch in Game 7 of the NBA's Eastern Conference semifinals, his shot was worth two points instead of three, and the Brooklyn Nets lost in overtime. When Riley McCusker's foot was off by an inch on her beam dismount at the 2017 American Cup, she slammed backward onto her neck and then rolled over it…

“‘It's the Olympic Games,’ Biles told the press, ‘But at the end of the day, it's like, we want to walk out of here, not be dragged out here on a stretcher.’”
Elle Reeve, CNN

“If anyone has a right to say ‘no’ it’s Simone Biles, who has suffered enough for Olympic glory in an organization that never cared about her while she was being molested and abused. It’s time for Simone’s voice and all the voices of those women to be heard and respected. The scandal of what happened to our Olympians—who we all thought were having the times of their lives and living the dream—is outrageously criminal. They were living a nightmare and no one helped them. No one cared…

“Did Tom Brady’s management ever do this to him? Comparing pampered NFL players to little girls who were sexually, mentally, and physically abused with the consent and help of their organization is not in any way fair. The two sports are not at all comparable.”
Megan Fox, PJ Media

“The predictable subset of the pundit class framing Biles’s decision as cowardly—proof that the modern athlete is coddled, or that the supply of American grit is running low—could not have chosen a less fitting mark. Biles has won the U.S. national championships jumping and landing on broken toes; she has won a world championship with a kidney stone. There may be nobody alive with a firmer grasp of what can and can’t be transcended…

“For athletes, a willingness to sit one out, if they need to, may make for more humane conditions—more thoughtful protocols for post-match media interviews, more resources for competitors traveling around the world without friends or family. For all of us watching, there’s another subtle but meaningful effect. We draw no small portion of our ideas about striving and accomplishment from sports. Biles, in leaving her competition yesterday, did what we want great athletes to do: offer a hint about the connection between internal workings and external brilliance. It wasn’t joyful, so she couldn’t fly through the air in the way we’re used to seeing. That tells us something crucial, and beautiful, about the times when she could.”
Robert O'Connell, The Atlantic

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