Simone teaches us what a champion can look like
Last updated 7/28/2021 at 2:45pm | View PDF
What would people think of you if they judged you at your most difficult moment?
That’s not a question I like to ponder. I’ve made plenty of mistakes and would like to believe they are tempered by the moments I did my best.
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles received her share of hate after she decided Tuesday to withdraw from the team finals in order to focus on her mental health. A day later the 24-year-old also withdrew from the individual all-around competition in Tokyo.
But her critics have been silenced by her supporters, especially other athletes.
“We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being,” a statement from USA Gymnastics read. “Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.”
USA men’s basketball team member Jayson Tatum spoke out in response to criticism from radio host Charlie Kirk.
“Is it that hard to be supportive and empathetic to what others are going through?” Tatum tweeted Tuesday night. “This is someone’s daughter and her health your (sic) referring to. Wonder if he has kids and how he would feel as a parent, someone talking about his kids this way. Cause I’d be DAMNED. Simone is a hero!”
Dominique Moceanu, the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Atlanta in 1996, tweeted a video of her falling on her head on the balance beam with a message of support for Biles.
“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 ‘white heart’ decision demonstrates that we have a say in our own health — ‘a say’ I NEVER felt I had as an Olympian.”
French professional soccer player Paul Pogba described her decision on Twitter as one of “undeniable strength.”
“We always focus on the physical aspect of health but the mental aspect is just as important. When you take care of both, you will flourish in life,” he tweeted.
Biles also received support from many in the medical community, including U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
“Putting your mental health first is hard in normal circumstances,” he tweeted. “Doing it when the eyes of the world are upon you takes extraordinary strength. Grateful to @Simone_Biles for demonstrating what strength looks like on and off the mat. Proud to have her represent our nation.”
Politicians weighed in, too, from former first lady Michelle Obama to New York Congressman Mondaire Jones.
“Thank you, @Simone_Biles, for showing us what it looks like to truly take care of yourself and reminding us that mental health always comes first,” Jones tweeted. “She’s the greatest of all time and doesn’t owe us a thing.”
One of my favorite tweets is from @cameron_kasky.
“So inspired by Simone Biles. Winning gold medals is what athletes do. But inspiring people to fight for themselves against all odds is what champions do.”
I remember Michael Jordan scoring 38 points in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals while he was suffering from the flu. He was described as a “clutch performer and relentless competitor.” He, too, was the greatest of all time.
Even though Jordan could fly, he never was upside down in the air hoping to land on a four-inch piece of wood four feet off the ground.
Sometimes sticking it out is the right thing to do. Thanks, Simone, for reminding us that sometimes it’s not.
— Pamela Lannom is editor
of The Hinsdalean.
Readers can email her at