Former Olympic gymnast Dominique Moceanu also competed at the 1996 Games and validated what others have voiced about the toxicity of those who push athletes to compete to their own harm.
I was 14 y/o w/ a tibial stress fracture, left alone w/ no cervical spine exam after this fall. I competed in the Olympic floor final minutes later. @Simone_Biles 🤍 decision demonstrates that we have a say in our own health—“a say” I NEVER felt I had as an Olympian. pic.twitter.com/LVdghdAh1g
— Dominique Moceanu (@Dmoceanu) July 28, 2021
Abuse survivor, Christian, and former gymnast Rachael Denhollander tweeted about the wisdom of Biles’ decision. “I remember the gymnasts who didn’t land after getting lost in the air,” said Denhollander. “The ones who died. The ones who were paralyzed for the rest of their lives. The ones who had catastrophic injuries that altered their lives. The fact that Simone walked out of that meet safely is everything.”
Denhollander’s husband, Jacob Denhollander, pointed out that USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, one of the most prolific sexual abusers in history, was there to help Strug off the mat. Rachael Denhollander is one of the survivors of Nassar’s abuse and was the first woman to speak out publicly against him after filing a report. Biles is one of those survivors as well, and in fact, the Wall Street Journal reports, “She is the only self-identified Nassar survivor still competing at gymnastics’ highest level.” Biles has shared that one reason she came to the Tokyo Games was to be a voice for survivors, whose treatment at the hands of USA Gymnastics has been appalling.
“Simone Biles has been fighting USA Gymnastics & the US Olympic Committee for years now,” said Jacob Denhollander, “trying to get some shred of accountability for her own abuse & the abuse of 100’s of other little girls at the hands of Larry Nassar—and y’all have the nerve to say SHE let her COUNTRY down?”
Michael Phelps, himself an Olympic superstar who is now working as a TV analyst for NBC, said seeing Biles withdraw “broke my heart.” Like Biles, Phelps has experienced being the “face of the Games,” and understands the pressure that such athletes bear. He said it is extremely important for these athletes having people they can trust who will allow them to be vulnerable. Phelps has shared in the past that after winning eight gold medals in Beijing, he was suicidal and that Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” played a role in helping him come out of that dark place. You can read more about Phelps’ journey here.
“We’re humans, right?” said Phelps. “We’re human beings. Nobody is perfect so yes, it is okay to not be okay. It’s okay to go through ups and downs and emotional roller coasters. But I think the biggest thing is we all need to ask for help sometimes too when we go through those times. For me, I can say personally it was something very challenging. It was hard for me to ask for help. I felt like I was carrying, as Simone said, the weight of the world on [my] shoulders. It’s a tough situation.” Phelps appears in the 2020 documentary “The Weight of Gold,” which explores the mental health challenges Olympic athletes face. These challenges, he said, are “so much bigger than we can ever imagine.”
Many Christians have voiced their support for Biles and disbelief at the criticism she is receiving. Pastor and journalist Joshua Pease said, “This weekend I’m preaching on Elijah & God’s still, small voice and all that. And considering the terrible Simone Biles takes happening today I’ll say this: I’m grateful God is far more gracious toward, and attentive to, our emotional, mental, and physical health than we are.”
NFL veteran Benjamin Watson said he was “disappointed” not to see Biles compete, but was “proud of her leadership and courage.” He said he was praying for her and added, “If your fanaticism trumps your care for humanity, you need to check yourself!”