The entire world is watching the Olympics. And most of it is talking about Simone Biles. The American superstar gymnast who was a heavy favorite to win gold in the individual All-Around, but who stepped down to protect her mental health.
Let’s call her what she is:
The two-time Olympian decided to remove herself from competition during the Team Finals. As a fan, I was disappointed because I wanted to watch her compete. As a human being, I know gymnasts (and all Olympians) do incredible things and make them look easy. As an athlete, I know that mental health is just as important as physical health…especially when you’re flipping and tumbling through the air and need to land safely. She didn’t need to risk injury; she doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone.
The fact that she posted on her Instagram that she never truly believed she was more than her accomplishments speaks volumes.
And, instead of hiding in the locker room, she stepped out and continued to cheer on her Team USA teammates and spoke to the media. When she stepped away from the All Around Finals, she still sat with her teammates to cheer on Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey. Who both did exceptionally well. Suni continued the USA dominance by taking gold (Americans have won it since 2004) while Jade took eighth.
When I was on the high school wrestling team, if you placed 8th at the state finals, you were on the podium (well, technically on the floor next to the podium, but still…quite a feat) and considered all-state. I think finishing 8th at the Olympics qualifies you to be considered all-world.
Simone Biles took a step toward healing. By taking a stand for her mental health, she brought light into darkness and remains a role model for athletes everywhere. She’s still a strong competitor, a fierce athlete, a devoted teammate, and a beloved child of God. As with social media profiles, when we see athletes, we really only see the good moments…or occasionally the crushing defeats.
But we are all more than our accomplishments. Yes, Olympic medals are quite an incredible feat. But there’s more to life than that. We are called to do more and be more. We are called to show those we encounter that they are worthy to love and be loved.
We are all family, brothers and sisters in Christ.
Every Olympian has already done more than we know for their sport. But we never really know or see everything that goes into an athlete’s daily life. It’s probably easier for some athletes, who aren’t thrust into the spotlight the way gymnasts, swimmers, and track and field athletes are. Or even those who go into the events without being heavy favorites.
For example, Jade Carey wasn’t expected to compete in the Individual All-Around. She finished 9th in qualifiers but each country can only field 2 athletes. Simone and Suni finished ahead of Jade and gave the USA a good chance at finishing with two medals, possibly silver and gold, at the finals. When Simone stepped away, Jade stepped in and got a chance to compete. To just go out and have fun at a time when she thought her day was done (at least in the All-Around competition).
The countless hours Olympians have put into their events shows just how dedicated they are. Take archery. An archer shoots an arrow 70 meters (76.55 yards [229.659 feet]). For reference, the target face is 48 inches in diameter and the 10 ring is 4.8 inches in diameter (that’s basically the size of a DVD). There are so many ways my form can affect my shot. In order to hit the center and receive 10 points, I need to be perfect…or close to it. For that to happen, the mental game is just as important as the physical. Even more important in a lot of ways.
Did I mention the competition is timed? In the Olympics, since 2012, during individual competition an archer shoots 3 arrows per set in two minutes in head-to-head competition against a single opponent. The first to 6 set points wins that match (a set win is worth 2 points, a tie is worth 1 point). During a World archery event, an archer shoots an end of 6 arrows. The round is 12 ends. If you shoot perfectly, after finishing the round, you’ll have scored 720 points. The world record is 702 for men and 692 for women.
Perfection is hard to chase. Like the perfect 10 in gymnastics or the perfect round in archery. You may have a perfect shot, even a perfect end, but even the best in the world have yet to achieve a perfect round.
So, focus on your physical heath, your mental health, your emotional health, and your spiritual health.
You are more than your job, your achievements, your net worth, or any other earthly thing.