fbpx

Sprinkles from the Left

⏰🚀 Ready, Set, Go: These opinions take 1.57 minutes to read.

“Anyone who has followed the tumult of USA Gymnastics in recent years knows the immense, inhumane pressure that Biles and her teammates have borne. Since the revelations of Larry Nassar’s abuse, athletes say they have struggled to get reassurance, from both the sport’s governing body and the United States Olympic Committee, that their health and well-being is a priority. USA Gymnastics has relied on Biles to buoy its reputation in the midst of scandal and to boost its scores in international competition…

After Biles’s rocky vault performance, some observers speculated that she had been suffering from “the twisties,” a gymnast’s term for a loss of air awareness during routines. Continuing to compete in that state would have been downright dangerous… At a press conference later in the morning, standing beside her three teammates, Biles said that she had exited the competition because the pressure had become too much. She cited as inspiration Naomi Osaka, the Japanese American tennis champion who withdrew from two Grand Slam tournaments earlier this year to prioritize her mental health…

Her withdrawal from the team final was not the handy victory that the public, or USA Gymnastics, was expecting from her at the Olympics. But it was its own kind of achievement, one that has the potential to affect the next generation of gymnasts more than any single medal could.”

Eren Orbey, The New Yorker

“When Biles then stumbled, a stunned Bridget Sloane observed, “It almost looks like she lost herself in the air.” Her decision to take herself out of the remaining events says, to me, that she found herself — and is exactly where she needs to be. I believe it takes more strength to throw off enormous expectations than it takes to live up to them…

We are used to athletic legends, and maybe Olympic legends in particular, springing from those athletes who “step up” and perform through injury and hardship. Kerri Strug landing on one leg to solidify a gymnastics team gold for Team USA in 1996. Tom Brady playing the entire 2020 NFL season with a torn MCL. And just Monday, Russian Artur Dalaloyan helping his team win the men’s gymnastics team gold despite having undergone Achilles tendon surgery a mere three months ago…

Biles’s unprecedented excellence is already an inspiration to millions to give their all in whatever they do; my hope is that now, millions know they can choose to not give their all when the pressure is on. Or to put that another way: Sometimes “giving your all” isn’t a show of strength on the outside; it’s what happens within.”

Ana Marie Cox, political journalist, author and host of the podcast “With Friends Like These"

Sprinkles from the Right

⏰🚀 Ready, Set, Go: These opinions take 1.69 minutes to read.

“Biles’s argument that she could have been injured if she continued to compete makes sense… However, the fact that Biles was able to become so mentally unfocused in the first place is quite stunning for an Olympic-caliber athlete, let alone the best gymnast ever…

Biles also told reporters that she thought she would cost the team too many points if she stayed in the final. It’s hard to buy that excuse… With a substandard Biles in the qualifying round, the US finished second to Russia by about one point. Without Biles in the final on Tuesday, they finished second by nearly three and a half points. Biles was much more accurate when she gave this more selfish explanation for her decision: ‘I have to do what’s right for me.’…

Biles’s decision also affected her teammates and her country… In taking the pressure off herself, Biles unloaded even more onto her three much-younger teammates. Will the media and the US gymnastics team consider the effect that Biles’s withdrawal may have had on their mental health?…

Biles may be the most skilled gymnast ever, but a true champion is someone who perseveres even when the competition gets tough. Biles’s teammates, who still took home a silver medal despite unthinkable circumstances, should be remembered as the genuine heroes of the 2020 US Olympic gymnastics team.”

Amber Athey, The Spectator’s Washington editor

“Biles is physically 100 percent. Initial reports, even the more detailed explanation that Dominic Pino was working from this afternoon, suggested that Biles was just mentally stressed out, in part from the sky-high expectations. That seems inadequate, and I thought it sounded pretty lame when I heard it. Athletes have to walk it off and gut through injuries a lot. That’s true of mental as well as physical problems.

But in each case, there are things you can play through, and things you shouldn’t. Once I saw what her actual problem was, I understood. Biles got “lost in the air,” as you can see from the video.

It was even clearer on the full broadcast that Biles essentially fell prey to aerial disorientation — she lost track, in midair, of where the ground was. You could see it in her eyes when she walked off. Gymnasts, like pilots, can die from that — you land the wrong way, you break your neck. Like a baseball player who suddenly can’t stand in against a pitch, it’s a thing you can’t play through. You might get reoriented in practice, and hopefully Biles will. But she walked off and left the event because she simply could not go on. Critics piling on her based on the initial press reports should watch what actually happened and listen to veteran gymnasts before lighting her up.”

Dan McLaughlin, National Review