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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Simone Biles Indicates a Comeback to Elite Gymnastics

A year before the 2024 Paris Olympics, star gymnast Simone Biles may make a return after her predicted domination at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics was derailed by mental health difficulties and she has not competed since.

The national gymnastics championships will be place from August 24-27 in San Jose, California, and Biles, at age 26, is named as one of the competitors in the U.S. Classic on August 5 in Chicago.

Her quiet debut raises questions about whether or not Biles can rediscover the form that won her four individual and seven team Olympic gold medals in Rio in 2016.

After withdrawing from most events at the Tokyo Games due to a mental block, many in the gymnastics community questioned if Biles would continue competing or quit from the sport altogether. She was excited to begin a new chapter in her life after spending so much time attempting to satisfy the public. She tied the knot with Green Bay Packers defensive back Jonathan Owens this spring.

Others in the gymnastics community, however, have speculated that Biles would attempt to make a comeback in the vault event, which needs comparatively less time invested in preparation than other disciplines. Although U.S.A. Gymnastics said that registration for the tournament “does not guarantee participation,” Biles’s decision to enter the U.S. Classic may indicate that she still believes she can be a dominant force in national and international gymnastics.

Just because Biles’ name is on the list alongside those of other medal hopefuls and former winners doesn’t mean she will definitely participate in Paris. It would be a great tribute to her French instructors, Laurent and Cecile Landi, if she were to achieve success there.

To become the first female gymnast in almost half a century to repeat as all-around Olympic champion, Biles was anticipated to win at least three individual events in Tokyo. She had been billed as the Games’ most anticipated performer, thus she was under a great deal of scrutiny leading up to the competition. She was still dealing with the aftermath of a sexual abuse scandal that had shaken the sporting world.

Biles was one of hundreds of gymnasts and other athletes abused by former national team doctor Lawrence G. Nassar. She joined a group of competitors that openly criticised U.S.A. Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, breaking with the norm that athletes should keep quiet while competing. Not long after the Tokyo Olympics, she was one among the gymnasts who spoke out against the F.B.I.’s bungled handling of the case.

Although Biles was criticised for missing a number of competitions in Tokyo, she was generally praised for being open and honest about her struggles with mental health.

In rejecting the long tradition of stoicism in sports, Biles joined the ranks of athletes such as Michael Phelps, Naomi Osaka, Gracie Gold, DeMar DeRozan, and Kevin Love who have spoken openly about dealing with anxiety, depression, and pressure.

According to Beilock, the openness of Biles and others who have discussed their struggles with mental health proves that these concerns touch everyone’s lives.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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