Degree of Difficulty

Simone Biles withdrew from the team competition Monday because of the need to protect her mental health. I say, good for her, and possibly long overdue.

Credit...Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Perhaps you recall the story from back in May, when Biles successfully competed a Yurchenko double-pike on vault. The gymnastics gods actually lowered the difficulty score on this, effectively penalizing Biles for doing something that no other gymnast can. And this was not the first time -- they had previously done the same thing on a double-twist-double-back dismount from balance beam. Another move that only she can do.

Their stated logic is that what she does is so far beyond the capability of other gymnasts they want to remove the incentive for other gymnasts to try it. "Safety considerations." Does this remind anyone of "for your security"? The hallmark of petty authoritarians with an agenda, and willing to lie about it?

Given the stories coming out constantly of sexual harassment and abuse that these women -- Biles included -- suffer for their sport, I would say that the most charitable interpretation of this touching concern for safety must include the word "selective."

But I also find myself imagining the private conversations that lead to a decision like this. In my imagination, they include the word "uppity". I would love for the authorities to give me reason not to imagine such things but that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

As for people criticizing Biles for withdrawing from the team event, I think this tweet I saw perfectly captures my attitude about them:

This article was updated on May 9, 2023

David F