July 27, 2021

"Simone Biles has withdrawn from the team final competition due to a medical issue."

ADDED: I'm reading "What Happened in Simone Biles’s Vault" (NYT):
Simone Biles balked midway through her vault in the women’s team final on Tuesday, then suddenly exited the competition.... Biles’s absence created a bigger opening for the Russians, who ultimately won the gold.

From the comments there: 

Now the reports are that Ms. Biles withdrew for mental health issues. It is sounding like the pressure affected her performance which is understandable. Heard a "Hidden Brain" feature on choking... and this description of her vault fits into what was being discussed. She began to think about her performance rather than simply do it. Hesitation and balking seem to be symptoms of using her working memory during the vault, i.e. thinking about what she was doing rather than simply letting her body do what she has done many times before.

And, a less sympathetic view: 

If Biles withdrew because of an injury, she was right to do so. If she withdrew because she didn't want to get less than first place, this is unsporting and discredits her good-sportsmanship, even if not her skill.

UPDATE: "Biles... said she pulled out of the event because she wasn’t in the right place mentally to perform the difficult and often dangerous skills she is known for, after feeling so much pressure to be successful. She had been struggling with the stress of being the greatest gymnast in history, she said, and outside expectations were just too hard to combat" (NYT).

The stress of being the greatest? Part of being the greatest is handling the stress. 

AND: The London Times quotes Biles: "I had no idea where I was in the air. I could have hurt myself and it’s very uncharacteristic. So why push it? I just felt it would be a little bit better to take a back seat and work on my mindfulness. I didn’t want to risk the team a medal for my screw-ups because they have worked too hard for that.... I think it shows power in the athlete — protecting my mental and wellbeing that I didn’t want to go out there and do something dumb and get hurt and be negligent.... If you would have said four or five years ago, that definitely wouldn’t have been that Simone — I would have gone out there and did whatever. But today it was like, you know what, I don’t want to do something stupid, get hurt. It’s not worth it, especially when you have three amazing athletes that can step up to the plate and do it. Not worth it.... There comes a time when I have to do it for myself. Coming in today was like fighting those demons. I have to do what’s right for me and not jeopardise my health and wellbeing.”


Ann Althouse said...

Joe writes:

"I wonder if the Gymnastic Committee had an inkling about her having issues before the team was chosen. I get that she is maybe the greatest ever, but if she can't perform as normal then it is doing her a disservice and putting all the pressure on an alternate gymnast. There is more to this story...

"And I don't believe the 'pressure' talk...she's been under pressure her entire career. Coming through under pressure has made her what she is..."

Ann Althouse said...

Mattman26 writes:

"Every indication I have is that Simone Biles is a delightful person, and she’s obviously got tons of talent and has worked very hard. And I wish her nothing but the best.

"But if the pressure to excel has proven too much at this stage in her career, then she can no longer be viewed (at least not currently) as the best of the best. Sad but not tragic. She’s had an amazing run."

Ann Althouse said...

ken writes:

"Everything is relative. While Team USA shattered with silver, Team GB, including 16 year old twins, over the moon with bronze, its first medal in team event since 1928. And China, bronze in 2016 and expected to repeat easily, fell to 7th."

I'll say:

That's why it's good to come in with modesty and a spirit of camaraderie and sportiness. And then when you win... you still don't gloat. Why not be generous and good-spirited toward everyone. Isn't that the Olympic ideal?

Ann Althouse said...

Xmas writes:

"I'm reading a report where she said she was physically shaking and unable to rest before her competition.

"This is subconscious physical manifestations of stress, like a twitching eye, but on a whole body level. You can't stop an eye from twitching by just "powering through".

"She cannot trust her body to do the things she's been training her body to do her entire life. I don't blame her for pulling out of the competition. One misstep or slip in those gymnastic routines can lead to horrific injury. It would have certainly cost her teammates a chance at any medal in the team competition even if she didn't get injured."