Allow me to start off by saying I have been a fan of Simone Biles for years now. I just love everything about her. She is literally splendid. I love how great she is at her craft, I love her smile, I love her interviews, I love her confidence, I love that she knows she is awesome. I love everything about her and there is no doubt she is one of the greatest athletes of all time. You know how they say everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not to their own facts? Have any opinion you want about her, but you can never argue with this: the illustrious Simone Biles has 27 gold medals, so far and she is only 24 years of age. TWENTY-SEVEN GOLD MEDALS! Please allow this information to sink in for a second. It actually isn’t an information; it is a fact! Please do shut up if you have some “alternative facts” (goddamn I suddenly miss Trump with his alternative facts!).

Simone Biles is so good at gymnastics that her competition, amazingly gifted young women who can do things no one else can, are light years behind her and I say that with no condescension since I couldn’t do a regular backflip if my parents’ life depended on it. Simone Biles is that good. It happens. Some people are too good; that’s just another fact of life.

The genius of Simone Biles comes from two things; Firstly, she has a natural gift, that came from the heavens. She has a natural ability to control her body in the air, that few people possess according to gymnastics experts. Nature was kind to her one could say. Secondly, the young lady puts in the work to hone her craft. Whenever a person puts their raw talent together with consistent work, they become unbeatable like Simone.

I believe the world of sports to be the only true meritocracy. Either you’re good or you’re not. Either you win or you lose. And the next day, you could win as you get better, if you decide to put in the work to get better. When you hold 27 gold medals, frankly, you are too good. Simone Biles is too good. I could never shower her with enough compliments.

Last week, she decided to stop competing to take care of her mental health. Now, I personally am always suspicious to buy this “excuse” because of the abuse around the “mental health” label. No one is an asshole anymore; they have mental health issues. No one is lazy or plain not good enough at something. No one is inadequate through lack of effort. No one is bad at something anymore. No one is unkind or mean or disrespectful. They all have mental health issues and that is profoundly insulting to those who truly suffer and cannot cope with their pain or who cannot be productive or be independent, or live normal lives. I simply do not like how those three words “mental health issues” are thrown out there without regard to their true meaning. The misuse of those words vexes me!

I might sound like a hypocrite, and I have already admitted I am biased when it comes to Simone Biles because of my admiration and love for her, yet I absolutely believe her. I believe her mind was stretched to the maximum. She may only be 24 years of age, but she hasn’t had an easy life, not by any stretch of the imagination. Yet, here she is, competing, kicking ass. Perhaps, gymnastics helped her escape everything she went through. On a personal note, when I write, I escape from life, my problems, my sorrow, for a while, so I can understand that.

Now, while everyone, especially the political pundits in the US, whose ability to analyze a situation or to empathize rivals with those of a pigeon, was bashing Simone Biles, one must point out that no one, literally, no one on this earth, can ever get the smallest glimpse of it must be like to be Simone Biles. No one can ever relate to her life, her talent, and especially the pressure she has on her already strong shoulders. When we say pressure, we mean mental pressure, it is rarely physical. Well, in her case, it is physical because all that jumping, twists, turns, landings are extremely hard on the joints, ligaments, muscles, bones, etc. Nevertheless, in her case, the mental pressure must have been unbearable. She actually went to Tokyo and at the last minute, she simply couldn’t do her routine.

I recently listened to a podcast by the New York times where they did a profile on Simone Biles and they spoke about her life, her struggles, her successes and so much more. You cannot believe what this young lady has been through and yet she still kicks everyone’s ass. In the end, all that ass-kicking comes at a price, I suppose. Our brains aren’t meant to keep going indefinitely or to perform at the highest level nonstop. At some point, we become exhausted, or we snap or unfortunately, in some cases, we are exhausted, and then we snap. Let’s not minimize a crucial fact; Simone Biles is a worldwide phenomenon and nowadays, athletes are celebrities, meaning, the public always believes they own a small piece of that person’s life. Some would say it is the price or the inconveniences of being famous, and perhaps they are right or not, who knows? So, Simone Biles has other people’s expectations weighing on her shoulders; USA gymnastics, the US government, the world, little girls, and big bald dudes who admire her, and so much more. Imagine that pressure. Imagine the scrutiny. Imagine what she hears or reads about her, since everybody has an opinion. Imagine the mental toughness she has shown already by dominating a difficult sport for almost a decade now. Imagine how alone she feels because no one has any clue of what she is going through. Imagine how tense her mind must be. Imagine the tension in her brain, her heart, her soul, and her spirit. You know what? You can’t possibly imagine that. No one can. Yet, here we are, criticizing this brave young woman and some are calling her names…That’s plain cowardice at its best.

I read some articles and comments from people calling her “weak”, “unpatriotic”, “quitter”, “whiny”, “selfish” and so much more. I would like any of those critics to be in her shoes for one day or for a few minutes or do 1% of what she has done in the gymnastics world. Those critics have the right to share their opinion. Let me share my opinion of their opinion; they can go fuck themselves. It is so easy to sit down and write on a computer but not so easy to stand on the balance beam. 99.99% of people would fall off so please don’t think you’re tougher than Simone Biles because you wrote an article.

I don’t know if Simone Biles has reached that critical point where she can’t take it anymore. I hope she hasn’t. I hope she recovers. I hope she takes care of herself as she should. I kinda want to see her retire with 40 gold medals and a happy smile on her face. If she decides to go the other route and give up gymnastics, I will applaud her. She will have made her choice. She has the right to do whatever she wants with her life. Moreover, I believe she knows what’s best for her better than the rest of the world. We do not own her. She owes us nothing. She already gave us so much. She has given the public more than most athletes do in an entire lifetime. Lowkey and full disclosure, in the back of my mind, I hope she retires now, for one and only one reason; how many people can retire at 24 with 27 gold medals? Name one, I’ll wait! So, that would be a boss move!

Simone Biles doesn’t owe us anything. We do not own her. Whatever she has achieved, it has been on her own talent, merit, and let’s be honest, her coaching staff, teammates, family, and friends. No one does things alone anyway. She has accomplished in 24 years things that most people could never do. She has proven time and time again; how special she is. And recently, she showed the world she is human, which was a welcome reminder! She is human. She has limits. Her mind and body have limits. She isn’t infallible. She isn’t a machine. She is human and we love her for that. She showed the world, to quote the famous motto, “it’s ok to not be ok”. She has cast a wide projector on mental health issues within the hyper competitive sports world and hopefully this gets people to talk about their struggles, depression, occasional lack of motivation and so much more.

Simone, thank you! Those two words can never encompass how much I admire you and respect you. My fear is to meet you one day because I know I would scream like a crazed fan and security will escort me out, gently, I hope. In the meantime, thank you for being an exemplary athlete and please remember your well being is of paramount importance, way above medals, prizes, and applause. You don’t owe the world anything and you owe yourself happiness and peace. Take care of yourself Simone and thank you again.

Just one man’s opinion.

Now smile and go on with your day!

Freeman. B

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