Please not her please not her please not her please not her.
Please. Let it not be her.
But on Tuesday in Tokyo, Simone Biles reminded all of us that while she might own four Olympic golds and 25 world medals, making her the most decorated gymnast in history, she is, indeed, human.
Her lesson began on Sunday, actually, when the American women qualified for the finals of the team competition in second place behind the Russian squad. While scores start over for the finals, and Biles qualified in all of her event finals, nothing felt right. Things just felt off, for Biles and the rest of the US team.
Of all the GOAT things that Simone Biles has ever done, perhaps looking at the trainer and announcing that she could not continue? That might be the greatest. There would be no soldiering on. It was done. She knew it and had the strength to say it. “I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a back seat and work on my mindfulness,” the 24-year-old later said. “I knew that the girls would do an absolutely great job.”
In the end, the women of the Russian Olympic Committee won team gold — to match the one secured by their men’s team this week, the first since the early 1990s — by over three points, a huge margin. It wasn’t just Biles’ flubbed vault. It wasn’t Chiles’s fall on her third tumbling pass on the floor. Just as they’d been in qualifiers, the Russians were good. And the US women — yes, especially without Biles and the degrees of difficulty she brings with her — weren’t perfect.
To be sure, Covid is not blameless here. Covid prevented training. Covid prevented competition. Covid, as it has for us all, put untold pressures on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of these athletes.
The US women didn’t lose gold on Tuesday. They won silver, and they did it playing the game without their most valuable player. “I didn’t do my job,” said Biles. “They stepped up and they did what they needed to do and more, especially last minute […] This medal is all of them and the coaches and it has nothing to do with me because they did it without me.”
And one of the great things about the Olympics — and there are many great things — is that while so many of us lost our minds about an Olympics without Simone Biles, others were watching Japan beat the US women in softball, a 2-0 shutout, Maude Charron pull off a brilliant victory for Canada gold over at weightlifting and downright marveling over the first Olympic medals ever given in surfing.
She will let us know when she is ready.