The Pressure, Power & Grace of Simone Biles
by Lindsey Turnbull
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TEXT OVERVIEW [Note: This text is the gist of the video, not a word for word transcript. There will be a captioned video in the near future.]
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS to Suni Lee, the first ever Asian American to win an all-around gold medal for gymnastics! You trained, you persevered, and now you are in an elite club that only a handful of people will ever be in. Congratulations, you are a star!
Simone Biles is the GOAT. The Greatest of All Time. One of the strongest athletes pound for pound. So good, she’s penalized for doing super-advanced stunts that others wouldn’t attempt.
I’m sure you saw the news- that she stepped back from competing in the Olympics after getting “the twisties,” basically, getting lost in the air while doing a stunt. It’s downright dangerous- she could’ve been seriously injured. Biles landed safely because she’s an incredible athlete- period.
Gymnasts have had career-ending injuries, even have been paralyzed doing gymnastic stunts. It is no joke dangerous.
Biles has competed with injuries. She came back to the Olympics in part to keep the spotlight on abusive former-doctor Larry Nassar. She’s expected to be perfect. To be better than perfect. On a global stage. During a pandemic.
I cannot image the amount of pressure she’s under. I imagine, most people would struggle.
As a teenager- and as an adult- I struggled with the thought of saying no, of disappointing anyone, even when I’m mentally done. I am not an international athlete. My small refusals don’t mean much in the grand scheme of the world. And still, it feels hard to say “Actually, I don’t think I can do this today. I need a break.”
And I think that makes it even more impressive that she simply said “I can’t do this,” and stepped back. AND stayed to cheer on her teammates, get chalk for their hands, and be a team player.
She, like Naomi Osaka before her, is putting her mental (and physical, let’s be honest) health first. Her gymnastics career is only one part of her life- it is not her entire being. Biles has to live with her mind and her body for the rest of her life- she is entitled to protect them! She doesn’t *have* to perform for us. We are not entitled to be entertained and dazzled by Simone.
But that’s not even why I started writing this email- what really caught my eye today was her Instagram post, where she said “the outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.”
If Simone Biles has felt as thought she was only valued because of her accomplishments and skills…surely many of us mere mortals feel the same way.
It’s been a long email to get here, the meat of this Thursday pep talk:
You are more than your accomplishments.
Your accomplishments are yours to be celebrated! You worked hard, no one can take them away from you! AND you are more than your accomplishments.
You are more than honor roll grades, more than soccer team captain, more than a STEM star, more than the leading role in the play, more than a degree.
All of those accomplishments are amazing- and they’re not the sum total of who you are. So many things make up who you are, like your kind heart, your quick wit, your compassion, your bravery, your friendship.
Celebrate those things too. You’re worth it.
So, thank you Simone. Thank you for breaking records and boundaries as a gymnast. Thank you for standing up to Larry Nassar. Thank you for being a team player. Thank you for showing the world what boundaries look like.
And thank you for being you.