In the Women’s Gymnastics Team Event, the Russian Olympic Committee won a gold medal over Team USA. The Americans were favored slightly despite trailing the ROC in qualifying because of their gold medals in 2012 and 2016.
No doubt, the headline was Simone Biles’s withdrawal from the team final shortly into the competition.
Biles had prepared to perform an “Amanar” vault that involved a roundoff back handspring onto the table followed by two-and-a-half twists. Biles opted for one-and-a-half twists with an atypical hop-forward after landing.
Following the Amanar, Biles consulted with a trainer before exiting the venue.
NBC shared live on the air that Biles had not exited with a physical injury, rather a “mental issue,” per sources:
USA Gymnastics released a statement Biles would not return to finish the team finals for medical reasons:
But Biles reemerged from the back in her sweatsuit, cheering on her teammates in a display of true professionalism:
Afterward, Biles said she was not injured physically and remained ambivalent about her plans to compete in the all-around final. Biles is the defending gold medal winner from the games in Rio de Janeiro in the all-around, vault, and floor exercise events.
“In the back gym, coming in today, it was like fighting all those demons, ‘I have to put my pride aside, I have to do it for the team,’” Biles said per Bolly Inside. “At the end of the day, I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health, and not jeopardize my health and well-being.”
“After the performance that I did (on vault), I thought it was better if I took a step back and let these girls go out there and do the job, and they did just that,” Biles said. “They get a gold medal from me in fighting because they never gave up. They showed the world what they’re capable of.”
Biles has withdrawn from every event in Tokyo, except the balance beam final on Tuesday.
Biles has explained through Instagram how she’s dealing with “twisties,” which make it difficult for her to judge where she is when airborne.
A few years ago, Biles pointed out the importance of being tuned in mentally when performing routines like the Amanar. Otherwise, an error risks potential injury.
“I don’t trust myself as much as I used to. I don’t know if it’s age. I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics,” Biles said. “I feel like I’m also not having as much fun, and I know that this Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself. I was still doing it for other people, so it hurts my heart that doing what I love has been taken away from me to please other people.”
The 24-year-old gymnast also said she’d felt a tremendous amount of pressure from these Olympics.
Along with swimmer Katie Ledecky, Biles is arguably Team USA’s biggest star in the first summer games post-Michael Phelps retiring.
Kudos to Biles for her self-awareness. She swallowed her own pride and ego not to be a detriment to her teammates, allowing them to win a silver medal.
And Biles’ teammates knew their leader felt emotionally off; the four-time Olympic gold medal winner stepped away to prevent the entire group’s confidence from being shaken.
Not many athletes would’ve done the same. As recently retired NFL wide receiver Julien Edelman said, he would play until his wheels “finally have fallen off.”
In some cases, does this display of grit benefit the team or purely satisfy your ego?
“Gymnastics isn’t everything at the end of the day,” Biles said. “There’s still more to life than gymnastics, so I’m not too worried about what happened. So I’m just trying to gear up for the next couple of days ahead.”
What’s unfortunate is that Biles felt compelled to defend her actions on social media, retweeting several supportive messages from others.
Simone, you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Let your accomplishments protect you from the critics.
It’s heart-breaking to read and to listen to people question Biles’ toughness, to the extent she reshared a post on Instagram that outlines all the injuries she competed with:
To rise above these adversities as a champion multiple times makes her the greatest gymnast of all time.
Competing in the Tokyo Games is a bonus, Simone. You’re already the ‘GOAT.’
What’s a ‘Good’ Teammate?
After stepping away from the team competition on Tuesday, Biles also pulled out of the all-around final Thursday to dedicate more time to improving her physical condition and mindfulness.
Teammate Suni Lee went on to win gold.
But even though she withdrew from the competition, Biles appeared on-hand to cheer on Lee.
The greatest, most elite competitors know how to pull the best out of those who surround them.
Above all else, they’re good teammates.
And who do you think showered Lee with adoration following her gold-medal performance?
The World Shows Love
Numerous athletes across sports on Team USA commended Biles for her bravery:
But what makes Biles’ courage special is its effect on the rest of the world, transcending beyond sports.
Hugh Jackman chimed in:
And so did Justin Beiber:
Her actions re-opened a dialogue about the importance of safeguarding one’s mental health; a topic discussed more often in the past 18 months with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As arguably the greatest Olympian of all time, American swimmer Michael Phelps found himself in Biles’ shoes following his record-breaking performance at the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
“I hope this is an eye-opening experience. I really do,” Phelps said to NBC’s Mike Tirico. “I hope this is an opportunity for us to jump on board and even to blow this mental health thing more wide open. It is so much bigger than we can ever imagine.”
So thank you, Simone Biles.
It’s not enough to be 100 percent physically to accomplish our goals. To reach our fullest potential, the mind must be at its best too.
Biles Bounces Back
On the last day of the event finals, Biles won a bronze medal in the Women’s Balance Beam competition.
It’s her second bronze medal in this event, but this moment means so much more for Biles and for athletes who’ve wrestled with their mental health.
Her competing alone is a tremendous accomplishment. It’s overcoming adversity.
“My mental and physical health is above all medals that I could ever win,” Biles said via the New York Post. “So to be clear, to do beam, which I didn’t think I was going to be, just meant the world to be back out there. And I wasn’t expecting to walk away with the medal. I was just going out there doing this for me.”
Biles exits the Tokyo Olympics, tied as the most decorated Olympian in American gymnastics history with seven medals. Even better, she’s won the most gold (4).
And the critics across social media are nowhere to be found.