Simone Biles' withdrawal is more impressive than winning

Simone Galle. Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock
When we look back at Simone Biles' shocking departure from the US Gymnastics Olympiad finals on Tuesday - and we will do this again and again over the coming days and weeks - we will do so in retrospect. “I really feel at times that I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I know I'll take it away and make it look like the pressure won't affect me, but damn it is hard sometimes, hahaha! ”The 24-year-old gymnast apologetically revealed where after the qualifying round this weekend on Instagram it has been described by the Wall Street Journal as an "uncharacteristic number of significant errors". She was previously asked about the "happiest moment of her career" in an interview with the New York Times prior to her flight to Tokyo.
"Honestly, probably my free time," Biles replied.
The warnings were all there; Biles did not hide the immense, suffocating pressure she was under. Still, there will be those who will cite their withdrawal (the circumstances of which are unclear at the time of writing but were originally described as "a mental health problem") as evidence of their failure. It's just the opposite: what Simone Biles did on Tuesday is more impressive than winning.
Biles' critics will likely point out that she took the title of "Greatest Ever" to justify her decision. But Biles, a Larry Nassar survivor, has never been dishonest with her fans about her motivations. In an interview with Today's Hoda Kotb in April, Biles said she was not coming back to the Tokyo Games to prove herself the best gymnast of all time, but because "I feel like there isn't a survivor in the Sport, they would have just pushed him aside. " Returning to the mat is as much about responsibility as it is about competition.
And while we don't know exactly what happened on Tuesday, we recognize that overwhelming expectations can overwhelm young athletes. Biles' elimination from the team final has obvious parallels with another young superstar, tennis player Naomi Osaka, who withdrew from the French Open earlier this year under massive criticism to protect her mental health. The force required for this - if you know the impending backlash, the disappointed fans and the disappointed teammates - is enormous and unfathomable. To insist that Biles just go ahead would not only be numb, but also not know that what she was doing out of self-preservation was so much more difficult.
On Tuesday, Rio 2016 gymnast Aly Raisman responded by “praying” for her former teammate. "She's human, and I think people sometimes forget that," said Raisman. "And Simone, like everyone else, is doing her best."
If that's not good enough, it's entirely up to us.
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