Can you imagine what it must’ve been like? Flying through the air, not knowing which way was up or down. Unsure of where you would land. Feeling the world spin around you. No control.
And, then, once you hit the floor, the reality sinks in as you realize you are on the biggest stage of your life and you’re not going to be able to perform. It’s clear.
As you muster up your courage, you move in record time to convey the news (even though you still haven’t processed it yourself) to your teammates. And, to top it off, you need to deliver the news in the right way. In your toughest moment, you need to encourage, build up.
You know what’s going on, but the world around you doesn’t. No one has a clue. People are angry, frustrated, concerned and confused. Judgment follows.
Once the dust starts to settle, fear sets in and starts to build. This is all you know. This is your sole identity—who you are. Your entire life has been built around being the star. Performing unbelievable feats. You have 4 moves named after you in 3 events—floor, “Biles” and “Biles II,” beam, “Biles,” vault, “Biles.” And, you even have your own name—”The Goat.”
Simone. Once you hear her name, you can quickly envision her and all she embodies. Strength. Determination. Strong will. Perfectionism.
This week we were reminded that even Simone is human. While we all know she is indeed human, somehow, along the way, we forgot. We view her as superhuman. We Americans had high hopes for her this week. We were looking forward to watching her and the entire team claim gold. She was our brightest star.
But guess what? She wanted it even more than we did.
Right now, we should be incredibly proud of Simone. She had a choice. One that most of us could never imagine having to make. And, she made the right one. Putting her mental health first. Above all her dreams. Above all the expectations.
She knew what she had to do because she had to…there was no other choice.
Anyone who has read about the “twisties” knows that time is the only healing agent. Most gymnasts experience them from time to time. No one knows how much time you’ll need to recover. You can experience them one day, then they might disappear the next. Or, they can linger. They have stayed all week with Simone.
Simone had experienced them before, but never has she experienced the “twisties” in all 4 events. And, never on a stage as large as the Olympics.
But even more harrowing was hearing her (and many experts) talk about how the “twisties” impact gymnasts. Your mind and body are no longer connected. You can’t tell which way is up or down. You forget how to twist and turn. You don’t know if you will land on your back, neck, face. Your muscle memory is gone. You have no control over what you do, how or when you land.
Simone didn’t just decide to quit this week. In fact, she’s never quit. It’s not in her DNA.
Mental health challenges often appear out of the blue. When it’s not convenient. When we’re expected to perform and be our best. And, when they hit, they’re often like this—you only have one option. To stop everything and take care of yourself.
Simone showed us what strength looks like this week. Making the incredibly difficult decision to not compete shows how strong she really is.
Take note: In her worst moment, she’s teaching us and helping others. And, I believe she will continue to do so…