Biles made correct call in Olympics competition decision

Lalah Delia once wrote, “Self-care is how you take your power back.” A select group of modern athletes have begun a movement to do just that.

A Wednesday article by The Associated Press said, “For decades, they were told to shake it off or toughen up — to set aside the doubt, or the demons, and focus on the task at hand: winning. Dominating. Getting it done.

“For years, Simone Biles was one of the very best at that. Suddenly — to some, shockingly — she decided she wasn’t in the right headspace.

“By pulling on her white sweatsuit in the middle of Tuesday night’s Olympic gymnastics meet, and by doing it with a gold medal hanging in the balance, Biles might very well have redefined the mental health discussion that’s been coursing through sports for the past year.”

Michael Phelps, winner of a record 23 gold medals and now retired, has long been open about his own mental health struggles. Phelps has said he contemplated suicide after the 2012 Olympics while wracked with depression. Now an analyst for NBC’s swimming coverage, he said watching Biles struggle “broke my heart.”

“Mental health over the last 18 months is something people are talking about,” Phelps said. “We’re human beings. Nobody is perfect. So yes, it is OK not to be OK.”

Biles joins some other high-profile athletes in the Olympic space — overwhelmingly females — who have been talking openly about a topic that had been taboo in sports for seemingly forever. These athletes include tennis player Naomi Osaka, American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin, and WNBA player Liz Cambage.

On Wednesday, Biles pulled out of the all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being.

“I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health, and not jeopardize my health and well-being,” a tearful Biles said after the Americans won the silver medal in team competition. She said she recognized she was not in the right headspace hours before the competition began.

“It was like fighting all those demons,” she said.

This issue has become a hot-button topic on social media networks, but that probably should not come as a surprise. Since the dawn of athletic competition, there have been people who are critical of those who are competing. In many cases, these people select an armchair as their pulpit, and in more recent times, they are referred to as keyboard warriors. In Biles’ case, some critics were going as far as to comment that she “let her country and her team down.”

To those people, here is some food for thought: one in five American adults have experienced a mental health issue. That’s 20% of us. If it was someone in your family — your mother, your dad, your child, or your friend — would you have the same harsh words, especially when you know they are struggling? If the answer is yes, perhaps the problem is more about your personal issues than theirs.

We support Biles’ choice, as only she truly knows what she’s battling against. It’s easy to take a critical position in situations like this, and that’s why stigmas and misunderstandings run rampant with mental health.

It’s much more difficult to say, “while I may not understand exactly where you’re coming from, I support you and I’m here to listen.”


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