Simone Biles had the courage to say ‘no’ and deserves respect for it | Opinion

Simone Biles

Simone Biles, of the United States, watches gymnasts perform at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Tokyo. Biles says she wasn't in right 'headspace' to compete and withdrew from gymnastics team final to protect herself. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)AP

By Laura Zhang-Choi

Simone Biles said NO. She said NO on the brightest world stage at the most critical moment to the organization that defines the epitome of an athlete’s career. She said NO to the media and to USA Gymnastics and its unrealistic expectations that did not leave any room for her to make mistakes and be human.

She said NO to a culture that cultivated predators like Larry Nassar and permitted coaches like Bela Karolyi to value wins and medals above the physical well-being of their athletes like Kerri Strug. I used to think Kerri was so brave and so inspiring when she injured her ankle in a terrible way on her first vault in the 1996 Olympics and gritted her teeth through another before crawling off the stage in agony while spectators erupted in cheers. Now I just feel incredibly sad for her that she couldn’t say NO even though the second vault was not even necessary for the U.S. to clinch the gold. She could not say NO to a system that made gymnasts’ bodies disposable as long as they win.

Simone’s NO dictated where her boundaries were. She got to define that for herself despite the consequences she knew she’d face. THAT, my friends, is brave. Simone’s NO is a YES to her teammates. She knows her limits. She knows when to step aside and is willing to do so to let her teammates shine, to prove to the world that they don’t need her to carry the team, and that they are already talented enough. Her NO lifted up the ones behind her, from her shadow. Her NO tells them that she trusts them, that they got this. There’s a lesson/sermon here for every institution, organization, and person of wealth, power, and influence. Respect!

Simone doesn’t owe anybody anything. The world doesn’t deserve her. She listened to her body and she said NO. Little girls in this grueling sport can learn to do that, too. I think the world has always been afraid of girls/women who make decisions about their own bodies, always afraid of women who have the audacity to say NO. They should better get used to it. To the #GOAT!

Laura Zhang-Choi lives in Stewartsville.