'Simone Biles Already Won': How American Gymnast's Move Resonated With Women
Simone Biles prioritising her mental health at Tokyo Olympics 2020 is inspiring women, especially Black women.
US gymnast Simone Biles – dubbed the Greatest of All Times – was expected to make history in Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Stunning the world by exiting from the team event at the Games on Tuesday, 27 July, she did make history after all — by sending a powerful message and inspiring an entire generation of women across the world, especially Black women, to put their mental health above everything else.
"I have to focus on my mental health. I just think mental health is more prevalent in sports right now...we have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do," 24-year-old Biles said, reported Reuters.
"I don’t trust myself as much anymore...maybe it's getting older. There are a couple of days when everybody tweets you and you feel the weight of the world. We're not just athletes, we're people at the end of the day and sometimes you just have to step back."Simone Biles, as reported by Reuters
A 30-time Olympic and World Championship medallist, Biles needed just four podium finishes in Tokyo to become the most successful gymnast – male or female – in the history of the game.
Biles has decided to withdraw from the All-around gymnastic final that is set to take place on Wednesday, 28 July, due to mental health reasons.
'Thank You, Legends': Support Pours in From Black Women
People on Twitter pointed that it takes immense courage to prioritise mental health, and that messages sent by sportswomen like Biles and Naomi Osaka remind Black women to 'take the space that they need'.
In late May, Tennis World Number Two Naomi Osaka announced her withdrawal from Roland Garros one day after she was fined $15,000 by the French Open and warned that she could face expulsion from the tournament following her decision not to speak with the press, citing mental health concerns.
Many also pointed that Biles and Osaka's coming out will enable more and more Black women to share their stories.
Black adults and Black women in particular are more likely than White people to report feeling sad and hopeless some of the time, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The 2017 study also pointed that only 30 percent of those who needed mental health care actually received it.
Another often quoted study from 2000 shows that African-Americans seeking mental health treatment are less likely to be offered evidence-based medication, therapy, or psychotherapy.
'Weight of Gold + Weight of Safety'
Simone Biles’ decision comes three years after former team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced, on multiple charges of child pornography and sex crimes for sexually abusing athletes, including Biles, over many decades.
Biles is the only survivor of the sexual abuse scandal who is still competing.
In an interview in April 2021 to TIME, Biles mentioned that gymnastics wasn't her sole reason for continuing to compete — she said that she was also driven to be a voice for change.
"If there weren't a remaining survivor in the sport they would've just brushed it to the side," Biles said.
'May We All Be Brave Like Simone at Some Point'
While support poured in from all across the world, a few others (predominantly men) vented on Twitter that Biles should have not only been 'tougher' but also that her decision to withdraw was 'wrong'.
Women, again, hit back saying that not only is Biles the epitome of bravery – and that prioritising her mental health made her the champion she was.
Thousands of tweets also sought Biles' bravery for themselves. "May we all be brave enough at some point in our lives to stop doing something we've worked really hard for, simply because we know pursuing it would be bad for our well-being..." wrote a Twitter user Dana Stevens.
While the focus is to prioritise mental health amid the weight of expectations, women across the globe are chorusing – 'More power to Simone Biles'.
And to millions of them, she has already won Tokyo Olympics 2020.
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