I am disappointed that I don't get to watch Simone Biles win all the gymnastics medals in the Olympics right now. I was looking forward to it. I'm certainly not a gymnastics enthusiast. I don't understand most of what is really happening, but I know Simone is pushing boundaries and she is fun to watch.
When I heard she stepped down from the competition, I was sad. I wanted her to win the medals she has worked so hard for over the last years. But the more I think about it, the more it seems like an act of bravery to sacrifice this dream for her safety and health.
Flying through the air and flipping her body around the way she does is very dangerous if she isn't fully focused. Simone has shown that she has the determination and fortitude to become the best gymnast in the world. It takes strength to turn down something she's been working her whole life to accomplish, knowing she wasn't in the right place to do it safely.
In addition to protecting her own health and safety, Simone is bravely taking on the mental health stigma. In the past, and still today, it is seen as weakness to admit a mental health struggle. It almost certainly would have been hidden behind a physical injury of some kind in earlier years, but Simone openly explained what she was experiencing and why she had to step back from competition.
Sharing a mental health struggle feels like weakness, but is often an act of compassion and bravery. After the last few years, and even before then, many people suffered in silence, thinking they were alone and that their problems were moral failures. Just the knowledge that other people are facing tough issues can be the spark someone needs to reach out for help and start the path back to mental health.
Seeing someone in the spotlight, carrying the both the success of the Olympics and the dreams of the nation on her back, openly discuss her mental health struggle, sacrifice a dream to maintain long-term health, and still be smiling on the sidelines cheering on her teammates, shows character and strength.
Simone is a hero.
I hope she is able to compete in some of the events safely. But some things are bigger than sports.