'Selfish sociopath': Why Simone Biles didn't 'quit' amid ugly criticism

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Seen here, Simone Biles lets out a roar at the Tokyo Olympics.
Simone Biles' withdrawal from Olympics gymnastics has sparked fierce debate in the USA. Pic: Getty

Simone Biles has been subjected to some vile abuse from her own countrymen after her bombshell decision to withdraw from her Olympic gymnastics events at the Tokyo Games.

Biles shocked the world earlier in the week after abruptly withdrew from the women's gymnastics team final after just one vault on Tuesday night.

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The American star's bid for a record six gold medals at the Tokyo Games ended in shock fashion when she dropped out of the women's team final and watched as the United States surrendered their title to Russia.

In a further development on Wednesday afternoon, the greatest gymnast of all time then also withdrew from the final all-round individual event at the Tokyo Olympics to work on her mental health.

It's led to some disgusting criticism of the 24-year-old from within the United States, with right-wing commentator Charlie Kirk calling the gymnast a “selfish sociopath” and a “shame to this country”.

“We are raising a generation of weak people like Simone Biles,” Kirk said.

“Simone Biles just showed the rest of the nation that when things get tough, you shatter into a million pieces.”

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There was similar criticism from John Davidson writing for The Federalist, who argued that Biles' decision to pull out of competition was symptomatic of a larger societal problem.

“We as a society have begun conflating mental health and mental toughness, or grit. Public figures are often rewarded for taking care of their ‘mental health’, even in the absence of any kind of mental illness,” he said.

“Biles doesn’t suffer from a specific mental illness, at least not that we know of or that’s ever manifested itself before.

“What she experienced wasn’t that, it was something more common among professional athletes: she got psyched out. She wasn’t mentally tough when she needed to be.

“Instead of being ashamed of that, or apologising to her teammates and her countrymen, Biles seemed to revel in taking care of her ‘mental health’, whatever that means.”

While some have slammed Biles as a quitter who let her USA teammates down, there is a compelling argument that the gymnast's decision actually gave Team USA a chance to win the silver medal that they may not have otherwise.

There is no denying that Biles “quit" by some definitions of the word. After all, she decided to stop competing.

However, there is a distinction in sports between just walking away and acknowledging when, for whatever reason, you are either incapable of continuing or your performance is hurting the team — like a player testing out a knee and realising he can’t go or the pulling of a hockey goalie who is letting in too many shots.

While it would no doubt have been better for all if Biles had determined this prior to the start of competition, she said she felt good heading to the gym before trying to power through. “I have to put my pride aside,” she thought. “I have to do it for the team.”

However, Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time, was anything but good in her one vault attempt.

Pictured here, Team USA with their silver medals in the artistic Women's Team Final.
Team USA won silver in the artistic Women's Team Final. Pic: Getty

Some will dismiss mental health issues, but gymnastics, in particular, is a sport that requires the mind as much as the body. A lack of focus is as dangerous as a busted-up ankle. For Biles, the inability to concentrate was obvious.

On her vault she attempted to perform a Yurchenko with 2.5 twists, except she was so out of it that she managed only 1.5 twists.

“I did not choose to do a one and a half,” Biles said. “I was trying to do a two and a half but that was not clicking.”

Simone Biles knew something was not right

This is somewhat akin to a baseball pitcher thinking he was going to throw a fastball but instead throwing a curveball. “Not clicking” hardly describes it. Her teammates were so stunned that they covered their mouths.

The Yurchenko 1.5 is a basic vault, a 5.0 degree of difficulty that is comically pedestrian at this level. Of the 42 women who competed Tuesday, only one attempted an easier vault. Instantly, Biles knew she couldn’t compete any longer.

Biles received 13.766, a painfully low score in elite gymnastics. In a sport where winning and losing can come down to one-tenth, let alone one one-hundredth of a point, Biles was 1.2 points below what she put up in qualifying. Only three other gymnasts, and none who competed on the top six teams, scored lower.

“I was like, ‘I am not in the right headspace,’” Biles said. “I am not going to lose a medal for this country and these girls because they’ve worked way too hard to have me go out there and lose a medal.”

There is no manager who comes to the pitching mound in gymnastics. Biles had to make the decision herself.

“I didn't want to go into any of the other events not believing in myself,” Biles said. “So I thought it was better to take a step back and let these other girls do the job. And they did.”

So she called on Chiles to fill in for her on bars and beam and Lee to step in on floor. They did pretty well on all three. Chiles scored a 14.166 on bars and a 13.433 on beam. Lee recorded a 13.666 on floor.

The Russians still won easily, running away with the gold by 3.432 points.

If Biles had scored the same in those three events as she did in qualifying when she topped the all-around list — and that would be a remarkable recovery — the U.S. would have added 1.5 points to its total score. That wouldn’t be enough to catch the Russians.

Biles would have had to outperform her qualifying numbers by more than 1.9 points on those three events for her score to impact the outcome. What are the chances a non-confident gymnast is doing that? Virtually nil.

On vault, Biles scored 8.0 below her qualifying number. If that continued over the three rotations, she would have tallied a total of 39.303 points, or 1.962 less than what Chiles and Lee put up.

The USA beat Great Britain for silver by just 2.0.

Whether Biles competed or didn’t, the Americans had essentially no shot at winning gold. The chance of not capturing silver, however, was significant if Simone couldn’t get things right.

Biles’ decision, whether you want to criticise it, was at least partially rooted in strategy for the team. She was the pitcher who pulled themselves from the game.

To argue she cost anyone anything is ridiculous. She allowed the others to come in and preserve the silver medal. Competitively, she didn’t do anything, or anyone, wrong.

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