Simone Biles has some rethinking 1996 Kerri Strug moment. ‘She shouldn’t have jumped’
She was her last hope, the 18-year-old gymnast with a pixie haircut, who showed an expression of the utmost confidence as she blinked at the crowd.
At the start of the Vault rotation, the US gymnastics team known as the Magnificent Seven had a 0.897 point lead over the Russian team on the final day of team competition during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.
Kerri Strug had watched her teammates scramble to clean up their land, some jumping or kicking while Dominique Moceanu fell before her turn.
Much like the weight on the shoulders of Simone Biles, the American gymnast who retired from this week's team final at the Tokyo Olympics due to mental concerns, Strug knew what was at stake and "was the only one who could do it ". . "
Only on her first attempt did she undervalue the landing, and her feet went off as she fell from under her. The gasp in the arena was deafening.
Strug had badly injured her left ankle.
"It looked like a given on paper," said Olympics.com. “Strug was a proven specialist on the device and decided on a jump that she had landed many times in the past. But not today. Instead she fell back on landing, heard a crack in her ankle and then felt a sharp pain in her left ankle. "
Her face screwed up in pain as she asked her trainer Bela Karolyi a simple question that would put her stamp on gymnastics:
"Do we need that?"
"Kerri, you have to go again," Karolyi said loudly on ESPN and put his arm around her. "We need you one more time for the gold."
And so, after hobbling back to the starting point, Strug flew through the air a second time, only this time she held the landing with both feet without stumbling, before immediately lifting her injured ankle to hop while walking along her arms stared into the crowd at the air.
And then she collapsed in pain with a third-degree side sprain and tendon damage.
Overlooked by the dramatic roar that erupts in the Georgia Dome? The fact that the Magnificent Seven would have won even without Strug's last vault.
Biles, the Texas native who is widely considered to be the best gymnast of all time, didn't make it to the top of the vault competition on Tuesday. She ended up awkwardly on her first rotation and left the arena to seek treatment from a coach, later announcing that she had retired from the event due to psychological issues.
“I just think that mental health is more common in sports these days. ... We have to protect our minds and bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do, ”said Biles after his retreat.
“We're not just athletes, we're people at the end of the day and sometimes you just have to take a step back. I didn't want to go out and do something stupid and get hurt, ”she said, reported Reuters.
On Wednesday, she withdrew from Thursday's competition, further changing the way mental health is portrayed in sport - or at least in the world of gymnastics.
And Olympians, past and present, step forward to aid Biles in their moment of vulnerability.
With the advent of social media, the issue of mental wellbeing among athletes, especially athletes competing on the world stage at Olympics, is being openly discussed - and people are seeing Strug's vault injury in a new light.
On Facebook, Byron Heath, an Idaho father, brought up Biles' decision and said she was "an even better example" for his daughters. He spoke of Strug's famous landing and how his kids had questions that didn't seem to be asked when the moment happened 25 years ago.
"'Why did she jump again when she was injured?" Asked one of my girls. I made a stupid answer about the heart of a champion or Olympic spirit, but the back of my mind was buzzing with a thought: She shouldn't have jumped again, "Heath said in a post.
There are also those who compare both decisions, Biles' and Strug's, more positively.
Katharine Wenocur, a child therapist and former gymnast, wrote a commentary for The Philadelphia Inquirer, talking about how she watched the Strug moment as a child and how she wrote a school report card about her courage.
“She became an indelible role model who embodied self-sacrifice and work ethic for all. These memories are an important part of my childhood, even after I left exercising to become a child psychotherapist, ”Wencour said.
She went on to feel overwhelmed by Biles' own courage to start the conversation about mental health for young children who look up to her.
“Children need role models and advocates, as stigmatization of mental disorders can contribute to feelings of isolation and a feeling of differentiation from their peers. I have a question for those who are wondering whether Biles is living up to her role model status by quitting (her words): Who better to exemplify health than an Olympic hero? "
Then there are those who also compare the Gallen and Strug moments negatively.
Over the years, Strug passionately defended her coach's decision to move on to her second jump.
"Everyone always said I was the baby," Strug told Sports Illustrated. “That was my time and I said I'll prove it. People get the wrong impression that [Turner] are robots and don't think. I was upset that people were blaming Bela [for my decision to jump again].
After Biles opened the mental health conversation, Moceanu, who was the youngest on the 1996 team at age 14, tweeted a powerful - and terrifying - video of her landing on her head while standing on the balance beam.
“I was 14 years old and had a tibia fatigue fracture that was left alone without a cervical spine examination after this fall. Minutes later I competed in the finals on the Olympic floor, ”tweeted Monceanu. "@Simone_Biles' decision shows that we have a say in our own health - 'a say' that I NEVER had as an Olympian."
Athletes started and continued the conversation about mental health before and after Biles stepped forward, including tennis superstar Naomi Osaka, who made public statements about her battle with depression. The same goes for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who struggled with depression after his brother's death.
Texas official calls Simone Biles "childish, selfish" for the Olympic team's withdrawal
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