Simone Biles is back.
She showed incredible strength when she ended her 2020 Olympic competition for emotional reasons due to the “twisties.” A term gymnast use when a mental block causes them to lose track of their position in midair. They can cause dangerous and even deadly consequences.
Refusing to feel shame or remorse, she made her reasons public. Millions of souls were affected, many probably sought treatment for their own inner demons and issues not dealt with or acknowledged because she admitted hers.
For the most part she was applauded for her courage. But some called her names and berated her for not “bucking up” and finishing the competition.
Too many times we are assailed with images of those who did push through and were lucky they survived. Remember Keri Strugs’ winning 1996 vault when she continued to compete even after damaging her ankle? She was carried triumphantly off the floor in the arms of her coach Bela Karyoli after winning gold for the US. She was out for the rest of the Olympics and never competed again.
From that moment on, gymnastics became irrevocably intertwined with that picture- injured, ready or not, quitting isn’t an option- and if you win, adulation, money, fame, will follow.
The sad fact, we didn’t even need her potentially career-ending vault to win. She could have been seriously hurt, or killed.
This was a clear message to all athletes.
Do whatever it takes to win, regardless of the price.
America loves winners.
But Simone Biles said no. She taught the world a lesson. The medal, notoriety, years of hard work aren’t the priority when our health and life is on the line.
Others have been brave enough to come out and tell their story:
Micheal Phelps, ADHD.
Leonardo DiCaprio, obsessive compulsion.
Lady Gaga, PTSD.
Catherine Zeta Jones, bipolar.
Kendall Jenner, debilitating anxiety.
Emma stone, panic attacks.
Duane Johnson, depression.
Prince Harry, depression.
Chrissy Teigen, postpartum depression.
But with Simone Biles we saw her attempts to overcome. We lived through her decision, day to day, to will herself better, and fail. Not because she wasn’t strong enough but because once physical or mental health is impaired just desperately wishing it away or using all the will power in the world won’t fix it.
She taught us that in real time. We watched her struggle.
The most decorated gymnast in U.S. history- with 32 medals, four gold at the Olympics and 19 gold at World Championships made another kind of history. She was the first gymnast to ever stand up and say, “enough”. She needed to take care of herself no matter what anyone thought, no matter what anyone expected from her on the biggest stage on the planet.
Earlier this month, in the U.S. classic, she proved she is back. She won the event by five points. A sport usually determined by tenths of a point. This, after doing something no other woman has done- landing a Yurchenko double pike on the vault.
She didn’t trumpet her return.
She didn’t advertise her hard work and resilience.
After a two-year hiatus getting the help she needed, and working on her mental and physical health she made a decision to pursue her own goals, her way.
Regardless of her ultimate successes, she is a powerful lesson in what it means to honor ourselves.