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Simone Biles Has Excelled in the Olympics Before–What Made These Games So Different?

She’s still the GOAT though.

Credit: Byarturo/Wikimedia Commons

Simone Biles is tied for the most decorated gymnast of all time and for the most Olympic medals won by an American female gymnast, and she even has four moves named after her. So it was a shock to everyone when she chose to withdraw from almost all of the events she was scheduled to compete in this year.

The Olympics has faced a lot of criticism this year for some of their decisions. Some were funny, like the supposedly anti-sex beds the athletes were given. However, most were more serious, and often revolved around Black women and their bodies: swim caps designed for natural Black hair were banned, Caster Semenya was not allowed to compete due to her natural testosterone levels, and Sha’Carri Richardson received a suspension after testing positive for marijuana. Simone Biles is by no means the only Black woman to be experiencing issues this year.

However, Biles’ case runs much deeper. For starters, Biles is the only person left who still competes for USA Gymnastics after experiencing Larry Nassar’s abuse, something she has been open about the effects of. This is a complete change from the 2016 Olympics in which his decades of abuse were only just beginning to come to light.

Nassar comes up even when it’s not affected. Many Twitter users have been using other athletes’ ability to work through injuries as proof that Biles should have too, most commonly using Kerry Strug’s 1996 final vault as an example. But even more Twitter users have come to Biles’ defense and pointed out that this move ended Strug’s career at only 19 (compared to Biles being 24) and that Strug was immediately handed off to Nassar after she was injured.

It has also just come out that Biles’ aunt passed away unexpectedly while Biles was in Tokyo. Factoring in how much the past year has affected everyone and the extra training that was required for Biles to make it to the Olympics, it’s understandable to be as burnt out as anyone else–if not more so. Even Biles’ coach is encouraging her to go home, relax with her family and her boyfriend, and seek out therapy, as NBC reports.

Many supporters have pointed out that Biles has already won. She brought home multiple individual and team gold medals at the 2016 Olympics, and she has the most World medals and gold World medals of anyone ever. When she competed in the balance beam at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, she placed bronze–the exact same place as in 2016. Multiple of this year’s competitors have cited her as their inspiration. She’s also been a great example of what a good friend looks like and what good sportsmanship looks like.

Simone Biles will continue to be the GOAT, but now she knows that she is more than just her medals. We all need to take breaks sometimes, and Biles has certainly earned one.

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