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Simone Biles Doesn't Owe You Anything

Ryan Phillips
Gymnastics - Artistic - Olympics: Day 4
Gymnastics - Artistic - Olympics: Day 4 / BSR Agency/Getty Images
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Simone Biles had a bad day at the office on Tuesday. Something rare in her decorated gymnastics career. She bowed out of the team final at the Olympics after one rotation because she didn't feel up to it mentally. Immediately the hot takes rolled in about her being "mentally soft," a "quitter," "screwing over her teammates" or solely being focused on individual goals. Here's the part where I tell anyone with that attitude to f--k right off.

After struggling badly during her vault attempt in the team competition Biles sat with team doctors. Apparently she didn't know where she was in the air during her vault and had trouble focusing due to "a mental issue." Biles claimed she was incredibly stressed out, was shaking and couldn't nap before the team final. She said, "I have never felt like this going into a competition, and I tried to go out and have fun. But once I came out, I was like, 'No. My mental is not there.'" She still stayed on the floor to cheerlead for her teammates. In the worst moment of her athletic career she could have gone and sulked in the dressing room or left the arena, instead she supported her team.

Simone Biles doesn't owe you or anyone else anything. She's the greatest gymnast of all-time who, after a legendary performance at the 2016 Olympics, made the rare step of seeking glory for her country in a second Olympics. Most high-level gymnasts are out after one cycle of the games, but Biles opted to go on the grueling ride a second time. Then COVID happened and her eventual retirement was pushed back by another year. All the while she's been a model athlete for the U.S. and one of the most marketable in the world.

In the midst of her rise to stardom, Biles revealed she had been sexually assaulted by Larry Nassar. She was openly critical of USA Gymnastics for ignoring, then covering up her abuse. Through it all she's handled herself with incredible poise and grace becoming a perfect role model for her fans.

Biles is the face of gymnastics worldwide right now. A pint-sized giant who has done more to grow it and inspiring young people than anyone to come before her. She's also the most dominant active athlete in the world and has done more for her county in international athletics than anyone not named Michael Phelps. She deserves every American's respect and gratitude for that.

This is a 24-year-old woman who won four gold medals at the Rio Olympics, anchoring the USA team to a team title, while winning additional golds in the all-around, vault, floor exercise and adding a bronze on the balance beam. In five trips to the World Championships she won a combined 19 gold medals, including five all-around titles and helping bring home four team titles.She's done everything right the entire time, then had one bad day and trolls came out of the woodwork to shit on her.

I've read several tweets about how she didn't step up and tough it out for her country which is absolute BS. If she had competed at the level she showed on her vault attempt, she could have cost her teammates a medal of any kind.

People who have never competed in anything are claiming she should have been tougher and done it for her teammates. Those same teammates supported her decision in her incredibly difficult moment. They obviously knew something was not OK.

I the past, Biles competed with broken toes, was dealing with kidney stones during the 2018 world championships and has battled through various other injuries during her entire career. She's faced piles of adversity before and battled through. Whatever was going on during the team event was finally too much. And that should be OK with everyone.

Biles did what was best for her by stepping down on Tuesday. Gymnastics is a dangerous sport and anyone not totally focused can risk serious long-term injury. She assessed what she needed and bowed out, and her teammates went on to win a silver medal.

After a long, incredibly successful career, Biles doesn't have to explain herself to anyone, yet she still went to a press conference and answered questions afterwards. She's one of the greatest champions the United States has ever produced and she had a bad day at a bad time.

Frankly, for showing that even the greatest champions struggle with mental health issues we should be applauding and supporting Biles, not denigrating her. She was open with her struggles, when she could claimed a physical injury after that first vault.

If anyone has a problem with what Biles did or the fact that she chose her mental health over an athletic competition, I have the distinct honor of telling you to go screw yourselves.

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