Ziggy is a Certified Peer Specialist in PA and currently resides in Pittsburgh. He is a member of the Let’s Act committee, a group of peers devoted to raising awareness about mental health care. In his downtime, he enjoys reading novels and watching nature documentaries.View all posts
The Return of The Greatest Athlete: Simone Biles
Being alive in this era means that you can bear witness to one of the greatest active athletes of a generation. Simone Biles returned to the gymnastics stage and won at the 2023 US Classic competition on Saturday. In that event, she even showcased her skill, the Yurchenko double pike vault (two backflips off of the vault table) making her the only woman in the world to perform and complete that vault. Biles’ performance over the weekend showcases how resilient an athlete she is after withdrawing from most of the events at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics for mental health reasons. With this blog entry, hopefully, I can expand on how legendary Simone’s gymnastic abilities are, as well as shed light on some of the darker moments of the sport and how Biles’s return to the stage represents hope for this sport.
Simone Biles first started gymnastics at age 6 at a day camp and became an elite gymnast at age 14. If you examine these ages you would think it’s entirely too soon for one to become a gymnast or elite, however in the sport of gymnastics, youth was prioritized, and the perception was that you had to be extremely young to be able to compete. As the sport has progressed, you now see gymnasts like Simone Biles (age 26) able to compete long after their teens. That’s due to new coaching standards and yes, removing malignant parts of the gymnastics field like Larry Nassar, who abused gymnasts for decades.
As someone who has done gymnastics myself in my youth, I know a little bit about how difficult the sport is. Especially when it comes to things like air awareness. Simone Biles withdrew from the most recent Olympics because she had something called the “twisties.” That means that you actually lose your air awareness while twisting and doing somersaults. The twisties are dangerous because the more difficult moves that you do, the risk of injury increases. When Simone exited the Olympics, it wasn’t because she wasn’t trying enough; for whatever reason she lost her air awareness and performing certain gymnastic feats could have ended very badly. Biles is the most decorated gymnast of all time, with 7 Olympic medals and 25 world champion medals. She is someone that has inspired so many young black girls to get into gymnastics and she also showcases a spark of hope for the sport. Even in the darker moments for gymnastics, as well as her personal struggles, she came back stronger than ever and is a beacon of light for all of us to see.