Okay. Simone Biles. Since I was heavily involved in gymnastics for over 20 years as a coach, judge and national committee chairman, I will comment on her withdrawal from the team event for what USA Gymnastics calls an injury but what she describes as mental issues. She is going to assess how she feels for individual events. The team got silver without her.
Would they have gotten the gold if she had competed? Who knows. But, if her performance the other night was an indication, the result would not have changed. I have been saying all spring that she looked like she wasn’t the same gymnast that was in Rio. Or even in years after that at World’s. She didn’t seem to have that happy confidence that she had in the past. Who knows why? Maybe being the best of all time is a crown to heavy to bear. Maybe she was tired of the sport. I know, and I think all of the coaches and gymnasts around the sport, especially those at the Olympic level know, Gymnastics is a mental sport. If your mind isn’t in it, you can not only hurt yourself, you can die. So, not being mentally focused is a HUGE issue.
I don’t know what she was feeling. Only she and those closest to her know. I know it is harder to be chased than to be the one chasing. I also know that all the commercials, all the hype, all of it, puts a tremendous amount of pressure on any one human being. In her case, it had to be ten times worse because no one has ever done what she has. And she has no other teammate who can be a confidant for her, who has gone through it before. In Rio she had a team filled with experienced gymnasts, the biggest of whom were Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglass. She and Aly were very close friends and I am sure Aly helped her through her doubts. This time, she is the experienced one. All the girls look to her. That has to be hard.
There was a rumor in some corners that she was upset that the FIG designed some rules that downgraded her difficult skills to make it easier for other athletes to compete with her. I don’t know if that is true, but if so, those decisions were made over four years ago. If it was that upsetting to her, she had plenty of time to come to terms with it or retire.
*Do I think it was right to bail on her team? No. But I also know it must be hard to make that decision. Now she has to decide whether she will do the individual events. If she does, it will either make her look like a selfish person or it will make her seem brave in overcoming her problems. * UPDATE: She has withdrawn from the All Around as of today. If she doesn’t it will just reinforce the view that she is weak and maybe shouldn’t have been in the Olympics at all. I don’t know. I do feel sorry for the athlete who is sitting home in the U.S. who could have had her place. But again, I don’t blame Simone for that. I’m sure this will be a huge hit for USA Gymnastics. Maybe they deserve it. I’m sure that situation will be used as a reason for this. Maybe it was. I don’t know.
While we are talking about USA Gymnastics, an organization I spent a lot of time volunteering with, I wonder why no one saw this coming. The new team coordinator, Tom Forster, had to see that something was wrong. Did he try to do something? Was he just afraid to lose the best kid on his team. He’s under pressure too. If they don’t succeed, he will be given some of the blame.
I know Tom from my days in gymnastics. He’s a nice guy, but was never the coach that was able to get his kids to the very highest level. Maybe it was because he is a nice guy. While a nice contrast to the tyrannical Marta Karolyi, maybe he doesn’t have quite the edge to get girls where they need to be. Quite frankly, I was surprised at the team he chose. While the top two were locks, I think three and four were “iffy.” And I say “iffy” because you had a young woman like McKayla Skinner who might have provided that spark and comradarie for Simone. Hindsight is 20/20. And, fairly, any decision he would have made may not have made a difference. After all, if they didn’t have Simone in the finals the result would have been the same.
There are other scenarios. I don’t want to spread anything that will tarnish Simone’s reputation on rumors alone.
I do believe that the Olympics are a concept whose time has come and gone. I believe that the expense, the disruption of a country or city, and the hype just isn’t worth it anymore. Countries lose billions and the only ones making money are NBC and the International Olympic Committee. The concepts of good sportsmanship, athletic prowess, and athletes of all countries coming together in friendship, have given way to corporate greed, social statements, and win at all costs attitudes. And the athletes are the ones who suffer. Add in Covid, no spectators, no excitement, no athletes meeting other athletes, and who cares?
I think that Simone is a symbol of what is happening with many of us in the United States. Mentally, we are divided and not focused on what is good in our country and how to move forward. How many of us wake up each day feeling lost, hopeless, and unfocused? I know I do some days. These athletes have to feel the same emotions.
It almost seems as though the folks who want to ruin our country WANT a poor result by our athletes at the games. Does it sound conspiratorial? Perhaps. But, remember part of the Totalitarian take over is to demoralize the people. Like us, there were people in the World Gymnastics Community that wanted Simone to fail. Who knows what she was dealing with? Add to that the fact that we are being led by a man who is mentally incapacitated and a regime that is perpetuating that uncertainty. Thing is, can we recover from it without killing our country?
As for Simone, I hope that she comes through this with no regrets. I hope people are kind to her. I have already seen how people have reacted on social media, and it is brutal. None of them know the pressure she was under yet suddenly they feel expert enough to trash her. I don’t agree with what she did at all, but until I know all the facts, I cannot judge for myself. I hope I get to see her compete again with the joy she had before. If I don’t I thank her for the great moments she gave us all.
And, to her teammates who had to adapt and hold on to win a silver medal, congratulations!!! You are amazing. You discovered your strength!!!!