New York Daily News: What to learn from Simone Biles

New York Daily News

Six Olympic medals and 25 more from world gymnastics championships is more than enough proof that Simone Biles is a young woman who knows how to withstand pressure and perform with the world watching.

But something happened at the Olympics in Tokyo, not to her body but to her mind, the well-being of which is every bit as necessary to nail the landing or complete the seemingly impossible jumps and turns of a floor routine. So Biles stopped, and thought, and stepped aside.

We don’t necessarily call it courage, and we sure don’t call it cowardice. We call it knowing oneself, the mature recognition by a proven champion that health, both mental and physical, matters more than athletic glory. It’s a lesson all who stress and stretch themselves in any endeavor and judge themselves by the applause and approval and likes and retweets of others should absorb.

The moral might seem to be at odds with the higher, faster, stronger ethos of world-class athletics, where there really are winners and losers and where every sprinter or vaulter or swimmer has overcome obstacles and faced down fear. No one makes it to the Games, much less earns a medal, without at some point quieting the voices in their head or toughing it out at some point when pain in the ankle was nagging. In science or sports or music or politics or humbler pursuits, true excellence is unobtainable without some sacrifice.

All the more reason to respect the choice Biles, who has conditioned her body with a fervor and a focus few of us can fathom, who has been forced to squint through the celebrity spotlight, who has endured abuse, made. Hopefully, the world’s attention will put more attention on the importance of mental health, which is often given much less coverage by insurance despite on-paper parity.

Youngsters should keep Simone Biles posters on their bedroom walls. In fact, maybe adults should plaster them in far more places. We can’t all rival her athletic achievements, but we can all live by her example.

New York Daily News

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