Hope Highlights – JULY 30
By Abby Hope

TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM

Simone Biles, the most decorated American gymnast, and four-time Olympic gold medalist withdrew from the team finals last Tuesday for mental health reasons. Prior to her announcement, Biles bailed on the Amanar vault and just barely landed a one-and-a-half.

Under the lens that Biles is in, and the monumental stage that is the Olympics, it is understandable to hear her comment that this year in Tokyo she felt like she was doing the Olympic Games for other people, and not herself.

I randomly chose a few student-athletes to share their opinion, as athletes, on what it means for the GOAT to back down. One felt that “Biles had to make a decision not based off her physical being, but her mental state. Some may say she choked, it was a selfish decision, how can you let your teammates down in the Olympic Games, you’ve come this far. But I think Biles should receive a tremendous amount of love from the world for her actions that demonstrated that mental health is the ultimate decision. Not only is she the best gymnast in the world but an icon and inspiration for making one of the hardest decisions any athlete could have to do.”

Another told me, “at first I was shocked because she is at the Olympics and so many people would kill to be in her position and that she should just keep going since she is there. Obviously, mental health is real, and, at the end of the day, her health is the most important thing and she is still an amazing athlete.”

On a stage as monumental as the Olympics, we cannot even begin to understand the weight that was on Simone’s shoulders. She had, quite literally, the weight of the entire nation and the only option was winning.

Maybe it is the clean sweep she took in 2016 at the Rio Olympics or the way she makes catapulting through the air backward look easy, but some Twitter dwellers seem to think they could do what Biles can do. News flash to those people who say Biles let the country down.  They are, most likely, the same ones who can’t touch their toes or throw their trash in a can.

What happened to Biles that caused her to skip the all-around final is what’s known in the gymnastics world as the “twisties.” It is the unforeseen inability for gymnasts to complete the spin in order to land a particular move properly. Years ago, I competed at the intermediate level as a figure skater, and I could land an “axel,” a jump that requires more than one full rotation in the air. Before this week, I’d never heard of the term “twisties” but as soon as I did, I instantly had a word to describe a feeling I used to feel on the ice. It’s like your mind is saying “get up! now! jump! spin!” and your body says “most certainly not.”

Now, no discredit to me, but an axel is silly compared to the feats that Biles accomplishes. My point is, as only an intermediate participant in a sport that wasn’t even gymnastics, I can begin to comprehend that losing yourself in the air and praying for a “Hail Mary” landing does not give you the feeling to race to the mat and do it all over again.

Simone Biles withdrew. There is STILL no question that she is tough. She has been subjected to mental and physical abuse at the hands of USA Gymnastics and probably Larry Nassar. Undoubtedly, Simone is capable of persevering. This was not a case of an athlete choking.

There are so many lessons to be learned in success as well as in failure. The difference is, she made the tough decision to back out and let a very qualified teammate take her place because she knew she would hold the team back. She chose to put someone else and the rest of my country in a place to be more successful than she thought she could be in that moment. I know it takes a tremendous amount of humbleness to say it’s not about me at this point.  That’s taking one for the team in my book.

One huge lesson that came out of this scenario is that “the next man/woman up” is not just idle chatter.  Substitutes are just at important and a part of the team as the star is. Suni Lee stepped up when the country needed her, and that should make every American proud.

Another lesson that came out was that Biles was secure in herself.  When Simone said I’m not at my best. My body, mind, and soul are not one unit, someone else could do better.  That takes a tremendous amount of courage. Not only that, but Simone also stood on the sideline and cheered her teammates on. That is the role model that every girl should look up to. I have said it before and I will say it again, every child should play sports. Simone Biles putting aside any drop of personal pride, to give her team and country the best shot possible, and then taking her energy and spirits to the sideline to support her teammates is what sports are all about.

There ya have it, folks, The United States Women’s Gymnastics team is badass, resilient, and closing out the first week of the Olympics with another gold medal to add to the collection.  You go, girls.