Strug pushed through, Simone stood firm -- why is there any debate as to which is more heroic?

‘Coming to the Olympics and being head star isn’t an easy feat’

LEft: Bela Karolyi carries injured Kerri Strug following the awarding ceremony at the women’s team gymnastics competition at the Centennial Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Right: Simone Biles, of the United States, waits to perform on the vault during the artistic gymnastics women’s final at the 2020 Summer Olympics. (Susan Ragan; Gregory Bull, Associated Press)

Even if you haven’t been watching the Olympic Games like a hawk, you’ve likely heard the biggest news of the week: Gymnast Simone Biles, who is widely regarded as the greatest of all time, withdrew from the women’s team contest after her first rotation on the vault Tuesday, and then pulled out from the individual all-around competition the following day.

She didn’t sustain a physical injury during her vault, nor had she been physically hurt while training, so there were initially a lot of questions as to why she withdrew.

Later Tuesday, Biles acknowledged her mental health as the reason, saying that the pressure she faces to perform at the Games has had an adverse affect on her.

“This Olympic Games, I wanted it to be for myself, but I was still doing it for other people,” Biles told reporters Tuesday. “It hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”

She also described her morning, saying that it went OK, but that during the 5 1/2-hour wait, she was just shaking and could barely nap -- something she’d never experienced before, going into a competition. She went on to say that she tried to go out there and have fun, but once she was on the mat, she knew the mental piece she needed was not there.

In an interview with “Today” host Hoda Kotb, Biles said she’s feeling good physically, but emotionally, it varies, depending on the time and the moment.

“Coming to the Olympics and being head star isn’t an easy feat,” she said.

Many people have commended Biles for keeping tabs on her mental health, regardless of what that means for her Olympic standings or living up to the expectations of others.

Michael Phelps, a 23-time Olympic gold medalist who has been called the greatest of all time in swimming, responded to Biles’ announcement with empathy, telling the “Today” show that his first reaction was wanting to make sure Biles was OK.

“We carry a lot of weight on our shoulders, and it’s challenging, especially when we have the lights on us and all of these expectations that are being thrown on top of us,” Phelps said. “This is an opportunity for us -- all of us -- to learn more about mental health, to all help each other out. I want people to be able to have somebody to be able to support them, who is nonjudgmental and is willing to hold space [for them]. There’s a lot we can do to help one another, and we can’t brush it under the rug.”

This comes at a time when, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began, more light has been shed on the importance of mental health.

Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, who represented her country in lighting the Olympic Torch, has come out in recent months, publicly addressing her own mental health struggles. In fact, the Tokyo Olympics marked Osaka’s first major tournament in two months after she decided to withdraw from the French Open and Wimbledon to manage her mental health.

Some have compared Biles’ response and withdrawal to the infamous Olympic performance from Kerri Strug in which Strug completed on vault on a broken ankle to help her team win gold at the 1996 Olympic Games.

As many know, though Biles pulled herself from the competition this week, Strug went ahead with her vault.

The Strug-Biles comparisons on social media, which you can check out below, just might show far we have evolved in regards to mental health, and many took to social media to support that.

Have you looked back on Strug’s performance?

In hindsight, now, some say it’s hard to watch -- perhaps because they are now a parent, have struggled with mental health issues themselves, or maybe we’ve learned over the years to give people grace and acknowledge the importance of mental health.

And who better than a fellow professional athlete to weigh in on the matter?

And we can’t help but love what Kotb tweeted in reference to Biles’ withdrawal.

While we continue to applaud Team USA, we will also be eager to see what’s next from Biles.


About the Author:

Dawn is a Digital Content Editor who has been with Graham Media Group since April 2013. She graduated from Texas State University with a degree in electronic media.