If it were a game of poker, Simone Biles was dealt a pair of low singles.
High risk with very little reward.
She’s been on top of the world. Olympic Gold in the all-around in Rio in 2016 and entered Tokyo as the most popular United States athlete.
All the weight on her shoulders yet with very little to prove.
She had proved she was the best once before — winning four Gold medals in 2016. What more could she do? After all, she peaked age wise in her late teens just in time for Rio.
But her success continued with four and five gold medals at the 2018 and 2019 world championships respectively. And as she entered the 2019-20 winter — she felt like her training was on pace to be the first repeat all-around champion at the Olympic games in the summer of 2020 since 1968.
And she very well could have. But they were postponed until this summer.
Gymnasts age quickly, and a year can make all the difference.
Enter June of 2021.
Biles qualified for Tokyo and all seemed right with her quest to help the United States back to another team gold medal.
It seemed right to the broadcasters, to the Olympic committee folks, and of course it seemed right for the fans.
But it clearly didn’t seem or feel right for Biles.
She was starting to question her physical ability, which in result started to impact her mental capability.
All the pressure was on Biles — with millions watching around the world — all expecting the same greatness she delivered in 2016.
And it’s pretty simple.
Biles cracked. She decided that choosing to not try was a better alternative than trying and failing.
Does that make her a quitter? I think it’s complicated.
I read David Boudia’s book this summer. And if you’re not familiar with his story — he’s an Indiana native who is an Olympic Gold medalist diver best known for his heroics in his final dive of the 10-meter platform to win Gold in London in 2012. Boudia was his own worst enemy and knew that if his mind wasn’t right — he posed a great danger to himself by competing.
And the same goes for Biles — not to mention at her age.
The last time a female 20 years or older won the Gold in the all-around came in 1972. Biles is 24 years old.
Do we tend to blow mental health out of the water from time to time? Maybe. But the truth is, it’s a very serious matter and athletes would know. The pressure on athletes continues to grow year after year — but no amount of fame or money can make the nervousness, numbness, and weakness go away. It only makes it worse.
Simone Biles owes nothing to anyone. I do believe she let her team down. But a quitter? That’s for her to decide. Either she will come to terms with her decision or she will regret it for the rest of her life.