Simone Biles

Much has been written about Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the team and individual all-round competition at the Tokyo Olympics. Despite the negative coverage accusing her of quitting it is instructive to look at her (and her team’s) responses in the press conference.

When reporters trained their questions on Biles’s emotional state, she spoke just as comfortably, talking about mental health in the same terms as fitness and recovery programs—another variable in the champion’s pursuit. She described the danger of pressing through and competing in her state, saying she didn’t want to “do something silly” and hurt herself. She called Osaka—another sport-defining Black woman—a source of inspiration. “I say put mental health first,” Biles said in response to a query about how she’d advise other athletes in similar circumstances. “Because if you don’t, you’re not going to enjoy your sport and you’re not going to succeed as much as you want to.”

Simone Biles and the New Language of Greatness