On Tuesday, Olympic gymnast and international superstar Simone Biles shocked the world when she decided to withdraw from the team final. The Olympic gold medalist, who sparked widespread support and a surprising level of backlash for her decision, explained that she was not in the right mental state to compete.
“I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a back seat, work on my mindfulness,” Biles explained at a news conference Tuesday. “And I knew that the girls would do an absolutely great job. And I didn’t want to risk the team a medal for kind of my screwups, because they’ve worked way too hard for that.” The gymnast said she did not have a physical injury and she was withdrawing in part in order to avoid getting one.
“Today has been really stressful,” she said. “We had a workout this morning, it went OK. And then just that five-and-a-half hour wait or something, I was just like shaking, could barely nap. I’ve just never felt like this going into a competition before. And I tried to go out here and have fun. Warm up in the back went a little bit better. But then once I came out here, I was like no, mental’s not there…It’s been a long week, it’s been a long Olympic process, it’s been a long year. So just a lot of different variables, and I think we’re just a little bit too stressed out. But we should be out here having fun, and sometimes that’s not the case.”
Simone Biles and the ‘Weight of the World’
Simone Biles made her announcement following an uncharacteristically shaky vault performance Tuesday. She has also withdrawn from Thursday’s all-around, but there is still a chance the gymnastics champion could compete in individual events next week. By all accounts, her team and coaches support her decision.
In a Facebook post Sunday, July 25, Biles said, “It wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it. I truly do feel that I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t effect [sic]me, but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The Olympics are no joke! BUT I’m happy my family was able to be with me virtually They mean the world to me!”
Critics Slam Simone Biles As a ‘Quitter,’ ‘Selfish Sociopath’
In an op ed for The Daily Wire, titled, “WALSH: Simone Biles Quit On Her Team And Her Country. She Should Not Be Celebrated For It.,” writer and speaker Matt Walsh lumped Simone Biles in with other “sulking professional athletes.” Walsh, whose bio says he is “one of the religious Right’s most influential young voices,” called her a “quitter” and said that those encouraging us to celebrate her decision are encouraging us to “celebrate cowardice.”
People would not praise a male athlete for a similar decision, said Walsh on Facebook. He called Biles’ behavior “disgraceful and selfish,” adding, “We now have decorated Olympic athletes quitting in the middle of the competition because they’re sad. What an absolute embarrassment. But in some ways an appropriate representation of a country that has gone soft.”
Seth Dillon, CEO of Christian news satire site The Babylon Bee, tweeted, “Simone Biles just said sitting out the big competitions shows how strong you really are. That’s like saying soldiers who run away from battle are courageous. Cowardice is not courage; weakness is not strength. Great athletes understand this.”
One person responded, “As an active duty Officer, I can say that we prioritize mental health over running into battle. If you can’t perform your job because of your demons then I would rather you take care of yourself than put your team or platoon in danger. Don’t talk about things you don’t understand.”
Charlie Kirk, founder and president of Turning Point USA and president of Students for Trump, called Biles a “selfish sociopath” and a “shame to the nation.” Kirk, along with Jerry Falwell, Jr., co-founded the Falkirk Center, a conservative political think tank at Liberty University. Kirk has since left the organization, which has been renamed the Standing for Freedom Center.
Kirk blamed Biles for surrendering the gold medal to the Russians and, like Walsh, said that her decision was indicative of the overall weakness of the American population. “We are raising a generation of weak people like Simone Biles,” he said.