Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Boyd: Simone Biles is not a 'quitter,' and she doesn't owe me, you or this country anything
editor's pick

Boyd: Simone Biles is not a 'quitter,' and she doesn't owe me, you or this country anything

  • Updated
  • 0

Before you read any further, I'd like to make this abundantly clear: Simone Biles is greater at gymnastics than anything you'll ever do in life.

And if that offended you, good. It was probably time for you snap back into reality anyways.

Also, before anyone starts pointing the finger, I'm not excluding myself from that group either, as I'm well aware that a 4-foot-8, 24-year-old Black woman is greater at what she does in her profession than what I do — or will ever do — in my profession.

It doesn't bother me because it's true. Biles is the most decorated gymnast in history with 31 combined Olympic and World Championship medals, including 23 gold ones. She is the undisputed GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) in her sport and relative to other sports GOATs, she's greater at hers than they are at theirs, too. Yes, she's greater than Tom Brady in football, greater than Wayne Gretzky in hockey, greater than Michael Jordan in basketball, greater than Michael Phelps in swimming, greater than Babe Ruth in baseball, greater than Serena Williams in tennis, etc.

This is not an opinion. It's a fact.

Need further proof? Biles is so great in gymnastics that she has four skills named after her — the Biles on balance beam, the Biles on vault, the Biles on floor and the Biles II on floor — and you can take a guess as to how many people in history have completed those skills in competition other than her.

So, now that we've got that out of the way, I'd like to make something else abundantly clear: Biles is not a "quitter," as many have suggested, for withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics team final and the individual all-around final earlier this week to protect her mental health.

She is not a coward for saying enough is enough and handing the keys to her teammates as they went on to claim silver in the team final. She is not a weakling for pulling out of the all-around final and watching as fellow Team USA star Sunisa Lee clinched the first Olympic gold medal of her career.

In fact, I believe Biles — in this very moment — is the complete opposite. I believe she's an inspiration.

I believe she's a catalyst.

Because if she can be that vulnerable while on the world's biggest stage, hopefully it will remind countless others that they're allowed to be vulnerable, too.

"I say put mental health first. Because if you don't then you're not going to enjoy your sport and you're not going to succeed as much as you want to," Biles said Tuesday after withdrawing from the Olympic team final. "So it's OK sometimes to sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are — rather than just battle through it."

Yes, I would've loved to see Biles dominate like she's done so many times before. I would've loved to see her pull off her signature skills while the rest of the field simply looked on in awe.

But in that same breath, I also understand that she doesn't owe me, you or this country anything.

She never has and she never will.

Biles' withdrawal, from what I've seen, has been met with more support than push back, and she even relayed as much.

"the outpouring love & support I've received has made me realize I'm more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before," Biles tweeted Wednesday.

But despite the abundance of support, that doesn't mean that the vitriol toward Biles isn't there. It's still present, and I've read a lot of it, but for the sake of not giving those individuals a bigger platform, I won't repeat it here because it's ridiculous.

Questioning Biles' toughness is like questioning if humans need air to breathe.

We're talking about a woman who won the 2018 U.S. Gymnastics Championships all-around title with broken toes in both feet. We're talking about a woman who, a couple months later, led Team USA to the 2018 World Gymnastics Championships title while competing with a kidney stone.

And, unfortunately, we're also talking about a woman who rose to GOAT status, despite being failed by the people, organization and country that were supposed to protect her.

In January 2018, prior to winning the aforementioned national and world championships later that year, Biles broke her silence via Twitter and revealed that like more than 160 other women and girls, she was also sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.

"It is not normal to receive any type of treatment from a trusted team physician and refer to it horrifyingly as the 'special treatment,'" Biles wrote. "This behavior is completely unacceptable, disgusting, and abusive, especially coming from someone whom I was TOLD to trust. ...

"It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused."

Nassar, whose misconduct was covered up for years by USA Gymnastics, will die in prison after being convicted of his sexual abuse in January 2018.

If I were Biles, I would've never represented this country again. However, despite being a sexual assault survivor and having nothing left to prove in gymnastics, she chose to keep training — even for an extra year due to COVID-19 — and entered the Tokyo Olympics as the face of the Games.

Biles was poised to make even more history, but after she withdrew from a couple of competitions earlier this week, I came to a realization: In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter?

What does all of her success mean if she's not OK? What does it all mean if her mental health suffers? What does it all mean if she can't take a moment for herself, especially after giving so much to the rest of the world?

And what does it say about you if you can't extend any love and compassion out of the same mouth you once cheered for her with?

I know it may seem like celebrities, and athletes in particular, are invincible, but they're not. Of course there are a lot of athletes who have been praised and revered for pushing through the most challenging circumstances, Biles included. But everyone — and I do mean everyone — has a limit.

Even if you think about the people in your personal life who seem unbreakable, I can guarantee they've never had it all together all of the time, whether you've witnessed their fragility firsthand or not.

The difference, however, is that unlike the rest of us, Biles doesn't have the luxury of being out of the public eye. Everything she does is scrutinized by the world, which makes her even braver.

Choosing her mental health over a pair of Olympic medals doesn't relegate Biles to being a "quitter." It just reaffirms that she's human — extraordinarily at times — but still human.

Whether or not she competes in the rest of the Olympics remains to be seen, but regardless of if she does one more flip or not, I'd like to reiterate what I stated at the beginning of this column: I, you or anyone on this planet can't hold a candle to what Biles has accomplished, let alone light the candle to begin with. It's impossible.

James Boyd mug

Sports reporter James Boyd

So, instead of criticizing a legend whose name is synonymous with greatness or trying to "fix" her, how about you extend the same grace and kindness you'd want to receive if the roles were reversed.

Because as my good friend Ryan Wilson once told me, "People don't need fixing, James, they just need help," and GOATs are not excluded.

Follow James Boyd on Twitter: @RomeovilleKid


Get the latest in your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Recommended for you

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert