Hernández: Simone Biles excels as a human being but fails as a gymnast

US gymnast Simone Biles, right. and Jordan Chiles watch the women's singles all-around final at the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Simone Biles was better on Thursday.
On the morning of the gymnastics all-around final, from which she had already retired, Biles posted a message inspired by a personal breakthrough: “The overflowing love and support I received made me realize that I was more as my performance and gymnastics, which I never really believed in. "
Her pleasant surprise at the warm hug she received was an indirect admission of a truth her ardent army of defenders refused to admit.
Galle failed as a gymnast.
Her tweet implied that she would not have thought she would have received such kind words if only she had been judged on her athletic performance; that she was being kind because her people saw her as a human being, not just a gymnast.
It's wonderful that so many people were so empathetic for them after they left the team and the all-round competition that followed.
Really, it's wonderful.
However, since this episode falls back into the past, it is worth exploring the issue of stress, especially its place in sport.
This won't be the last time an athlete does not compete out of concern for his or her mental wellbeing.
Tennis champion Naomi Osaka entered these Olympics after a self-imposed mental hiatus during which she skipped Wimbledon. Several major and minor league baseball players have retired due to psychological concerns in recent years, including April's Angels reliever Ty Buttrey.
As was the case with Biles, these stories evoked conflicting responses from well-meaning observers who, in their compassion for the athletes, suddenly downplayed the reasons for which they were admired in the first place.
The impulse to defend Biles was understandable. She was a spectacular achiever and a worthy ambassador for her sport.
Simone Biles looks on after she was eliminated from the women's team at the Tokyo Olympics last Tuesday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Whatever the reasons, if she felt she couldn't keep up, or even if she just didn't want to, she shouldn't. That was her right as a person. Given that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar under the supervision of USA Gymnastics, she certainly owed nothing to the governing body. Her only obligation was to her teammates. If they agreed to her refusing to try her vault, so should everyone else.
However, it is incredibly insincere to defend Biles, the gymnast, using the same arguments used to defend Biles, the woman.
Pressure is a fundamental part of sport. The ability to perform under duress sometimes separates the great from the good and the pros from the amateurs.
Appearances at large events are valued more than those at smaller ones, partly because of the associated stress. Michael Jordan was Michael Jordan for what he did in the NBA postseason, just as Biles Biles was for what she did at the 2016 Rio Games. There was a reason Argentina's Copa America football tournament win was celebrated outside of South America. the championship was Lionel Messi's first in an international competition, without which his career was considered incomplete.
Biles' backers, denouncing the weight of their load, sounded like the people complaining about violence in football. What do you want? Should sport be banned? Because there is no sport without pressure, just as little as football without violence.
Arguments that their failure makes them more human miss the point. She is rich and famous for her ability not to look human.
Equally ridiculous is the rationalization that what happened didn't affect their legacy. Think of it this way: Would her legacy have been enriched if she had led the US to another team gold and defended her individual all-round title? Of course it would.
And to those who responded to Biles ’opt-out during the competition with the words“ So what? ”: Well, she didn't do her job.
To be clear, Biles can choose not to do this job. That is their prerogative. That doesn't make them any less of a person. But don't pretend it doesn't make her any less of a gymnast.
Refusal to acknowledge this reality sends her the wrong message that her worth is directly related to her accomplishments. So accept her failure as a gymnast and accept her athletic deficiencies, however little they may be. Let them know that their worth as a person is not measured by their values ​​on the vault or floor.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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