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Rovell: Simone Biles Will Eventually Need to Talk When Time is Right

Rovell: Simone Biles Will Eventually Need to Talk When Time is Right article feature image

Fred Lee/Getty Images. Pictured: Simone Biles.

So, here we are.

Simone Biles, the best gymnast of all time who left the mat for the team competition on Tuesday, won’t be defending her individual all-around title from Rio, citing mental health concerns.

This leaves us with an unprecedented situation to contemplate. Sure, we’ve see record holders and champions fail at the Olympic trials and the Games. Given the years of training time and mere moments to execute, there’s no doubt the Olympics is as much a mental game as it is a physical one.

But to get to the Games and not be able to go?

Tuesday’s decision by Biles predictably brought out the usual buffoons on social media, doubting the mental-health “excuse.”

Take the pressure in being the greatest — which Biles embraced by putting a goat on her leotard — is enough. Add in the facts that Biles is a sexual-assault victim of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, the COVID-19 issues and another year of waiting, combined with her brother being charged in a triple-murder case. Is that enough?

After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many.

— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 28, 2021

In defending Biles as a staunch and understanding advocate of mental health, there was a class of people I had a hard time having a definitive answer for: parents.

On one hand, Biles citing mental health upon bowing out is a beautiful lesson. “Even the greatest can’t go can’t go at the height of when they’re supposed to perform” doesn’t have to be looked as being soft. It can be looked at as the increasing importance of mental health, both its recognition and acceptance.

But on the other hand, I received direct messages and texts from people from whom I respect and there was clearly a group of who felt proud they raised gritty, competitive kids and have a legitimate concern about how they should frame what happened to Biles.

I didn’t know what to say. But when I woke up Wednesday and saw the news, I had an answer: It’s on Biles.

Recognizing that someone on the low end of how they feel on the mental-health spectrum shouldn’t be pressured to spill their guts on what is happening. It’s not always obvious and clarity might come with months — or even years — of therapy.

However, she has to eventually say more. Why? Because no one else is going to do it.

Sponsors won’t do it. They’re already in a precarious situation with their contracts. They don’t have to give her gold-medal bonuses and they’d get ripped if they enacted some “did not perform” clause in their contracts.

Those calling Biles a hero Tuesday didn’t quite have it right. It’s possible she can become one — a bigger one than she would have been if she added onto her four golds — but she has to do the work when it’s time.

Because us parents aren’t interested in seeing her pull off a Yurchenko double pike. We just want her to help guide us as to what happened and how we explain it to our children.

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