Sanjana – Year 12 Student
Editor’s note: This short essay was recently entered into the GSAL Black History Essay Writing Competition, organized by The GSAL Journal and UPSoc to coincide with Black History Month. Open to all students in Year 10-13, the purpose of the competition was to encourage students to undertake independent research, think critically and communicate clearly about an aspect of black history of interest to them. The Competition Poster provides more information about the competition brief and success criteria. CPD
With a combination of 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, the decorated gymnast faced a cruel twist of fate after complications forced her to pull out of her second Olympics.
The USA is a country that, no doubt, excels in every sport they attempt. Having “won” the Olympics a countless number of times with a record breaking medal count of 2,673, the US women’s gymnastics team intended on adding even more success to the country’s astounding name. Going for the inevitable gold, Team USA entered the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (held in 2021) with their heads held high, with unwavering confidence and with their eyes fixated on the win. The coveted Team Gold for women’s gymnastics was already being prepped for its 13-hour plane ride back home to the USA that has already birthed numerous legends of the sport, including Simone Biles herself.
But, as their decade-long reign has shockingly come to an end, the people are mounting the blame on their once “hero” Simone Biles.
Unlike many who are praised and applauded for raising awareness about their mental struggles, the seven time Olympic medalist was obliterated by members of the media who were first to scrutinize her tumble from glory.
According to the media, Simone Biles is weak, irresponsible and thoughtless. Members of the media were critical of her choice, claiming that if she had the true strength of an athlete, the Team Gold would inevitably have gone back to its rightful place in the USA. More shockingly, they stated that she had let people down; after all, we had all waited an extra year to watch her spark the arena with her moves. That in itself demonstrates just how outstanding Simone Biles is: team USA simply could not and did not win without her.
Unexpected, unanticipated, unpredicted.
Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the 2020 Olympics after a case of the “twisties” ignited an astonishing uproar that catalysed racist remarks about the highly celebrated gymnast. Her skills forgotten and titles conveniently blotted out of memory, Simone Biles became a punching bag to all those who were anticipating her failure. Except, as an athlete, she did not fail.
Simone Biles proved to the world that athletes are more than just trophies, representing their respective country. Athletes are humans. They are humans with an overwhelming pressure to perform, and with millions watching from back home, this volcano of stress is bound to erupt at some point. Unfortunately, for Simone, Tokyo was its target. In the eyes of people all across the globe, professional athletes are not permitted to be selfish. They have to be the best – all day every day. They have to do whatever it takes. They have to ignore the physical and mental consequences. Why? Because the people say so.
Simone Biles is superhuman. As an athlete, she defies the limits humanely possible. She has achieved the unimaginable, broken a multitude of records, and yet the world has still not progressed enough to look past the colour of her skin and give her the respect she deserves at the time she needs it most. Despite being the GOAT in gymnastics, she is continually disrespected, attacked and criticised. Most disgustingly, the young woman who has carried the women’s gymnastics team on her back both figuratively and literally, began to face a mob of racism for her “laziness” during these most recent Olympics. Whilst her physical ability might be seen as un-human, let’s not forget that she is not.
Simone Biles is not lazy. She is not weak. She is a role model to all those who do not realise just how tough gymnastics is physically but more so mentally. She is an athlete who shows it is okay to lose competitions as well as mental battles. But, most importantly, she is proof that sport is a rollercoaster no matter what race, gender or ethnicity you are.
Even after the traumatic responses and the racist comments, Simone Biles still went on to win Bronze on her weakest event.
Safe to say that, even at her worst; Simone Biles is still the best. Sanjana