I love the Olympics. Possibly too much. I’ve lost sleep while staying up late to watch swimming, and the first thing I do every morning is check my phone for overnight updates on medal counts.
So, just like the rest of the country, it was heartbreaking to learn that Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles withdrew from the women’s team gymnastic final in Tokyo.
The immediate fear was injury. But we quickly learned that while she was in peak physical health, her mental health was “not there” leading her to not only make uncharacteristic mistakes in her routine, but also make the decision to let her teammates finish the event without her.
Immediately, criticism and praise started to roll in. Some called her a quitter. They said she let her country down.
But I can’t see any other option but to respect her decision. And here are 3 things we can learn from the “Greatest of All Time” taking a step back:
1. Even the greatest need help
I’m not sure if you’ve ever watched one of Simone’s routines, but that woman can literally fly through the air. She has multiple gymnastic moves named after her. And the difficulty of some of her routines is underscored so that others aren’t encouraged to attempt potentially dangerous moves.
And she still has a breaking point. Just like all of us.
You can be at the top of your game and still need medication.
You can have the adoration of millions and still need therapy.
And most importantly: we all need Jesus, regardless of how strong we think we are.
2. Life is a team sport
Part of Simone’s decision to withdraw from competition was based on her feelings that she was weakening her team’s score with her performance. When she decided to leave the floor, her teammates stepped up in her place. Jordan Chiles took Simone’s place for the uneven bars. And Simone Biles changed into her track suit and cheered loudly for her girls.
In an interview after the US women received silver in the team event, reporters were asking about the pressure that Simone put on the rest of the team with her decision. One of the women responded that everything should not be on Simone’s shoulders all the time–they’re a team!
It made me think about my own life. Who do I have who can step up in a moment’s notice if I just can’t keep going? Who is that in your life? And what steps can we take to make sure we have a support system in place the next time we reach a breaking point?
Life is a team sport. And every greatest athlete I know has a team of people behind them, ready to step in at a moment’s notice to help carry them forward.
3. Your legacy is more than your work
Will Simone be able to compete in other Olympic events? I’m not sure. Will she perform in future competitions on the world stage? No one can know that.
But what I do know is that this is just the beginning of her legacy.
Whether she goes on to compete again, or becomes a commentator, or becomes a mental health advocate like swimmer Michael Phelps has in his retirement, there is so much more life ahead of Simone Biles.
Will I be telling future generations about how I watched her land a backward triple-twisting double tucked salto? After googling what it’s called, yes. Yes, I will. But you best believe I’m also going to tell them about her brave decision at the Tokyo Olympics.
Because legacy means nothing if we don’t include the actual human behind the accolades.
You have so much to give outside of your job title. You are so much more than a parent or a spouse. You are building a legacy with every act of kindness, every showing of generosity, and every time you speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves.
I’m never going to be able to do a backflip. I doubt I can even do a somersault anymore.
But I know there are things I can do every single day to change the world.