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Piece of Mind: Give Biles Some Room

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Simone Biles's decision to pull out of Games has the sports world buzzing.

The sports world is abuzz with commentary – much of it misplaced – on Simone Biles’s decision to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics.

She has cited emotional and mental issues for her reason to call it quits. Whether this spells the end of her athletic career really is of little concern for me. She has accomplished more in her 24 years on Earth than almost anyone else could do.

I am troubled by the critics who say she “quit” on her team. She did nothing of the sort. She stepped away and might have preserved the U.S. gymnastics team’s chances at medaling for the remainder of the Tokyo Games. Had she decided to compete and then crashed and burned, Biles would have jeopardized her teammates’ quest for Olympic glory. Instead, she has cheered them on from the sidelines.

I am not going to pass any particular judgment on the young athlete’s decision.

However, consider a couple of things here.

First of all, she said she is competing for the first time in her life without her parents’ presence in the arena. Hey, she’s 24 years of age. I consider that a big deal!

Second of all – and this brings up a grim chapter in the U.S. gymnastics team story – Biles is competing under the shadow of recriminations that are still being brought by the team doctor who sexually assaulted many female gymnasts. Larry Nassar is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison for what he did to those young women. I do not know if Simone Biles was one of his victims. I do know that many of her closest friends were involved. Do you think the pain of that horrifying experience is too much to bear? Imagine how you might react to such a context.

I am willing to give Biles the benefit of many doubts on her decision to walk away from the Olympics. She has more time to compete post-Olympics and if the Good Lord is willing, perhaps she can return to the 2024 Games free of the demons that plague her today.

I wish her all the best.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, also is a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is retired but is still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis’s blog for KETR, “Piece of Mind,” presents his views and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.

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