Simone Biles is an Olympic legend - but she’s also human

Simone Biles wasn’t willing to risk her mental health for her sport. She should be applauded for that, not attacked.

Simone Biles waits for the final results of the artistic gymnastics women’s team final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)

She's still just 24, but Simone Biles is widely regarded as the greatest female gymnast of all time.

The diminutive American superstar, who spent her childhood in Columbus, Ohio in and out of care, has dominated the sport for almost a decade.

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She has won 19 golds at the World Championships, and at Rio in 2016 she did the unthinkable, winning four golds in one Olympics - in all-around, vault, floor and as part of the US team.

In Tokyo this week she got off to a shaky start, when she misjudged her landing on the vault during the team final in uncharacteristic fashion. She pulled out of that event, and has now withdrawn from the individual all-around competition too.

Biles had posted on Instagram on Monday to say she felt like “the weight of the world” was on her shoulders, adding:

“I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard.”

It's worth reflecting on those words for a moment.

Simone Biles is a truly remarkable athlete. She has achieved near-perfection in her sport.

But more than that, she's a human being, and her honesty in acknowledging the pressure of the Olympics makes her so much more relatable.

It's what makes her and Naomi Osaka such powerful role models. They are prepared to face up to their psychological struggles, and refuse to risk their mental wellbeing for the sake of silverware.

Would this have been the case a generation ago? Even a decade ago? It's doubtful.

Of course, in doing this, they open themselves up to flak from the usual suspects. You can guess who they are.

But to the vast majority of us mere mortals, it's refreshing to see such openness and honesty.

Sport is about the setbacks as well as the podium moments, and we shouldn't expect athletes to be any less human than we are.

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