After five years of being in the spotlight, the pressure of being the most looked-after athlete in the world finally took its toll pushing the four-time gold Olympic medalist Simone Biles to withdraw from one of the most important competitions in her career. After participating in the first round of the team all-around gymnastics finals, Biles decided to put her mental health first and abandon the competition in what is considered one of the most shocking moments of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Biles left the gym for a moment and returned, as captain of the team, to encourage her teammates from the benches. The USA Gymnastics Team managed to claim the silver medal after the Russian Olympic Committee, and Biles got her first and most likely only medal at Tokyo 2020. After a while, the four gymnasts gave a special press conference in which Biles was at the center of attention, with the world avid for answers about the athlete’s withdrawal.
EFEEven at her young age of 24 years old, Biles managed to give us very important lessons of empowerment and self-care, among other subjects. To start with, we’re so used to the idea of the athlete as a god-like superhuman capable of overcoming every single obstacle for the sake of their sport. As superior beings whose only goal is competition and nothing else, the idea of an athlete withdrawing from any competition is almost unthinkable because it’s their life goal to be there.
We only need to take a look at social media and see the response of the public towards Simone Biles’ decision. Tons of comments are of disapproval because that’s not what athletes are supposed to do; because it shows weakness. However, it’s quite the opposite, Biles’ choosing to put herself first is an act of maturity, empowerment, and courage with very little precedent, especially when it comes to A-list athletes.
As Simone explained, she wasn’t feeling the thrill and fun of the competition, and rather than risk a medal for her team, she opted to step back. This has been a complicated year for most of us, including these superhumans, and mental health has been proven to be one of the most affected areas. We’re also talking about a young woman who, as mentioned, has been under the pressure of the spotlight for the past five years; a young woman who has been a victim of abuse in what’s supposed to be her dream life. But above all, a young woman like anybody else that has the right to feel bummed and, like everybody else, to take a step back and take some time for herself.
EFEHer courageous act teaches us that self-care is a rebellious act for women who are constantly pressured to exceed expectations. It teaches us that saying ‘no’ is ok; that being in control of our decisions and actions is empowering. She also taught us that teamwork can also mean stepping back from your role and giving the spotlight to your teammates. That it’s always crucial to always be surrounded by people willing to have our backs whenever we need them, but most importantly, we always have to put ourselves first, even if that means sitting out of what we think are the biggest events of our careers and lives.
Simone was going to take some free time to evaluate her participation in the rest of the competitions. So far, she’s also withdrawn from the Women’s All-Around Final, and her participation in the individuals is still unsure. We just can hope she feels better soon and back on her track whenever she’s ready to do so.
Photos courtesy of EFE