When the spotlight shines on a female athlete, it exposes every part of her life, leaving it open for scrutiny. Despite constant judgement, Simone Biles succeeded. Earning 32 Olympic and World medals, there’s a strong consensus she will go down in history as the best gymnast of all time, but her contribution to the world goes beyond the mat. When faced with adversity, Biles rises to the occasion. In all aspects of her life, Biles has proven time and time again that she is a model of strength for all women.
Strong Women Support Strong Women
When women get a seat at the table, we’re told to sit down and be grateful for the opportunity. For too long, we’ve taken the seat without demanding more chairs for women. Biles proved the power in pulling up another chair. In 2018, Jordan Chiles was going to quit gymnastics. After not making the roster for any international meets, she felt like the sport didn’t want her anymore. She checked out of her sport. She let her preparation falter. She lost confidence. Biles urged Chiles to give the sport a second chance, convincing her to move to Spring, Texas to train with her. Chiles told the New York Times that “I actually realized this when I saw Simone compete. She looks like she’s having fun out there, laughing and giggling, and doesn’t look stressed or tired. I was like, ‘You know, I’m going to try that one of these days and see how it turns out.’” Instead of being threatened by someone who people were calling a rising star in the gymnastics community, Biles pulled up another chair. We’ve been pitted against each other for too long. It’s time we take a page out of Biles’ book and start supporting one another unapologetically because strong women support strong women.
Mental Health Matters
During this year’s 2021 Olympics Games, Biles brought attention to the importance of mental health. Despite the inevitable backlash, she acknowledged her vulnerability. Inspired by Naomi Osaka, Biles prioritized her mental health and chose to step away from the Olympic team finals. She told Time magazine that "I do hope that people can relate and understand it's OK to not be OK; and it's OK to talk about it. There are people that can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel." That day, Google searches for mental health hit its highest peak in the past two months. She opened the conversation for other athletes to normalize talking about mental health. Alex Bowen, a member of Team USA’s men’s water polo team said the following about
Bile’s decision: “To be able to overcome your own ego and step aside, that’s huge. That’s a mental marvel. It’s something we all try hopefully to do all the time, but I don’t think many people can do that.” In competitive environments, there’s already enough pressure for women to feel like they have to prove their worth. With that, we often don’t want to appear weak in any way. Biles models for us that advocating for ourselves is a form of strength. It requires more courage than trying to keep our vulnerabilities hidden.
Already holding the expectations of the world on her shoulders, Biles continues to show up in the hardest situations On September 15, 2021, Biles shared her testimony on the sexual abuse case on Larry Nassar, who took advantage of 300 young athletes under the guise of medical treatment. Biles revealed, “USA gymnastics and the US [Olympic and] Paralympic Committee knew I was abused by their official team doctor long before I was made aware of their knowledge.” An entire system that Biles had been a part of since she was six years old had let her down. Instead of crumbling under this realization and the trauma of her personal experience, Biles chose to fight. She chose to show up for the 300 young athletes. She chose to advocate for herself. She chose to advocate for women. In her testimony, she begs the question, “How much is a little girl worth? I suffered and continue to suffer because no one at the FBI, USAG or USOPC did what was necessary to protect us. We have been failed and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.”
Every day, we’re presented with choices. We all have leading values that guide the decisions we make. I hope these stories inspire you to lead your life with a source of strength that comes from being a woman. We need one another and the world has yet to see how powerful we can be together.