Simone Biles: Breaking the Boundaries
If you don’t know her name-it’s time for you to learn it. Simone Biles is an Olympic gymnast who is completely changing the face of competitive gymnastics. Many have considered Biles the best gymnast the world will ever see. I would amend that statement to say she is the best athlete the world will ever see.
On Oct. 5, 2019, Biles performed two new skills that have never been attempted before in a major competition. Onlookers at the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany witnessed history being made when the American gymnast stuck her double tuck double twist dismount off the beam. Her flawless execution lands the skill a spot in the “Code of Points”, under the name “The Biles.” The code lists out all skills and their score values, along with the rules and regulations of the sport. Shortly after the meet, the Federation of International Gymnastics (FIG) approved the skill for induction into the code. Sadly, FIG is not giving the skill the ranking it deserves.
FIG ranked the never-before-done move at 0.1 points more difficult than the common double tuck with one twist dismount performed by many gymnasts. Biles, who completely defies the norms of typical gymnasts, called the decision “bullshit” in a recent tweet from her personal account. Her dismount includes an entire extra twist, increasing the difficulty tremendously, but performing the skill only allows her to earn 0.1 points more than if she played it safe and went with the more common dismount. FIG has defended their decision upon the reasoning that they want to put gymnasts’ safety first, and by lowering the rank value of the skill it will make other gymnasts less likely to attempt the skill in order to receive a higher score. In other words, they are trying to diminish the recklessness of other gymnasts who may attempt the skill. But since when has gymnastics been about playing it safe? Every new skill performed by a gymnast comes with a plethora of risks and it is up to the gymnast and their coach to decide when the risks are too high. The skill should be ranked at the highest level of difficulty, due to the fact that she is the only gymnast with the ability to do the move in competition.
Yet again, the world’s most outstanding athlete- not just female athlete- is being punished for being too good. Biles has not been shy to point out the discrepancies in the decisions FIG has made surrounding the “protection of gymnasts.” Another recent tweet by Biles called out the hypocrisy of the organization, who will not allow an extra mat to be placed on the ground for a beam dismount performed by Jamaican gymnast Danusia Francis. Her dismount is performed off the side of the beam, which has a narrower area of mats than the end of the beam, where dismounts are more commonly done. Francis cannot use an extra mat to avoid a fall on the hard floor, but The Biles dismount gets a lower ranking for safety reasons. All of this does not add up well to most, including Biles and her fans. FIG consistently represses gymnasts, whether it be by regulating the amount of makeup they can wear, restricting and deducting points for exposed undergarments and nail polish, or unfairly scoring the best athlete in the world under the guise of protecting the safety of other gymnasts.
Biles’ journey from the Rio Olympics on to Tokyo 2020 (which she has qualified for) has not been without hardship and setbacks. She is all too familiar with big organizations in the athletic world letting her down. USA Gymnastics, the organization which she has won 25 Olympic and World Championship medals for, has historically failed her. In 2016, it came forward that USA team physician Larry Nassar had been sexually abusing gymnasts during treatments. Allegations against Nassar dated all the way back to 1992, and USA Gymnastics received complaints about his conduct months before disallowing him from treating gymnasts. During those months, multiple other women were abused. Simone was treated by Nassar, along with her other Fierce Five Olympic teammates. It shows her true mental strength that she can continue to compete for an organization that has not protected her or her peers. Biles even had a huge role in shutting down the Karolyi Ranch, where gymnasts were overworked and abused during the training leading up to the Olympics for nearly 18 years, by simply stating she did not want to go back. The ranch has been under investigation with very little conclusion.
In Aug. 2019, Biles was interviewed after competition about her feelings towards USA Gymnastics. In the interview, she said; “It’s hard coming here for an organization, having had them failed us so many times. We had one goal. We have done everything they asked us for, and they couldn’t do one damn job.”
It’s truly incredible to see a gymnast calling out such an enormous organization on national television in the way she has. And Biles is not alone- hundreds of women testified in court against Nassar, telling their truths with strength and dignity. Biles, and teammates like Aly Raisman, and the 156 other women who testified in that courtroom, are completely changing how female athletes, and women in general, are taught to behave. They are not allowing others to silence them. Biles curses in her interviews and speaks the truth rather than give fabricated answers to journalists that won’t offend anyone. She will compete for USA Gymnastics because it is her dream, but she will not allow the organizations’ failures to be brushed under the rug.
Simone Biles is truly the greatest of all time, yet she has been shamed for knowing so. Back in August, Biles wore a controversial leotard to the U.S Gymnastics Championship practice day. On the back in sparkly rhinestones was the phrase “GOAT” in big letters with her last name underneath. She received tremendous backlash online but was not shy in calling out the sexism among the haters. Biles defended her decision to own her status as the greatest of all time because men are often applauded for their confidence while women are shamed for it. People were also displeased with her name being on the leotard, but she argued that other sports allow for names on the uniforms of the players without issue, so why can’t she? There is a stigma that female athletes, especially gymnasts, have to be humble, soft-spoken and uncontroversial. Biles has broken these barriers and norms by showing her true personality and confidence in herself.
After winning her fifth world championship title, making her the most decorated gymnast in history, Biles again went after those tearing her down for her confidence. She discussed the importance of promoting female athletes to own their greatness, saying “I’ve won five world titles and if I say ‘I’m the best gymnast there is,’ the reaction is ‘she’s cocky.’ No, the facts are literally on paper. I think it is important to teach that.”
While others are off being bothered by her poise and boldness, Biles will be off winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. She will be competing “The Biles”, and the “Biles II” on the floor, and “The Biles” beam dismount, all the while winning meets by margins that are nearly unheard of. When you consider great athletes such as Michael Jordan, Usain Bolt, and Tom Brady, make sure Simone Biles is at the top of your list. Not only does she excel far past other peers in her sport, but she breaks conventional norms for female athletes but is both an inspiration and role model for young athletes. Her legacy will far surpass just being the best athlete in the world; she will go down in history as a woman who changed the double standards for women in sports.