Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: We need to let Black female athletes like Simone Biles just be great

Simone Biles is an athletic powerhouse. With 25 olympic and world championship medals, 19 of which are gold, she is the most decorated gymnast in history. She continually surpasses her own skills, and now has four gymnastics moves named after her.

Biles is so uniquely talented that some of her signature moves have been banned for other gymnasts. Instead of recognizing her skill and allowing her to continue to outperform even herself, Simone is being penalized for doing certain skills.

One move named after her on beam — a double-twist, double somersault beam dismount — was ranked an “H” on an A-I scale, a system of scoring in gymnastics that adds tenths of points to a gymnast’s final score, “A” being the lowest, “I” being the highest. The H would be a step below the most difficult skills.

A move first displayed in Biles’ floor routine at the 2019 U.S. National Championships — a triple-twist, double somersault — was considered ineligible. Judges ranked that move as a non-existent “J” on the scale, meaning it could not be scored. This prevented Biles from using the move in her routines.

“What an awesome thing, you have to be so insanely good at gymnastics to have that even be an issue, so like, as far as issues are concerned, they’re literally saying she’s too good,” said IU freshman Asher Halsey, a member of the IU Gymnastics Club. “I don’t think that’s okay … I don’t think that’s at all appropriate to limit any gymnast, I think that’s the point of the sport.”

The Women’s Technical Committee, a group that manages discipline within women’s gymnastics, justified the decision by insinuating other gymnasts cannot do this move without severely injuring themselves.

Black women are excellent. Simone Biles is excellent. Many of the other gymnasts she competes with are excellent. There is no need to dumb down and diminish her, or underestimate her peers, for the sake of protecting them from themselves.

“I think this is almost like an insult to all the other gymnasts at that level,” Halsey said. “Listen to any of these gymnasts’ stories. Where they get there takes everything they have, and I mean like literally everything they have.”

Halsey said Biles’ talents are remarkable and she is an inspiration to himself and many other athletes. He said she can spur the sport of gymnastics to continue to evolve.

“So to tell one athlete that they can’t do something because the other athletes can’t measure up, you know, what is that saying about the other athletes?”

IU junior Grace Iwachiw, another gymnast for the IU Gymnastics Club, talked about Biles’ prowess not only in gymnastics but in life, overcoming challenges from the color of her skin and her gender to sexual abuse by the former doctor for the U.S. women’s national team.

Despite all of the things that could’ve held her back, Biles has continued to thrive.

Last week, Simone Biles criticized ESPN for their male-dominated perception of who the GOAT, or “greatest of all time,” is in sports. ESPN posted a graphic on their Twitter account highlighting the best athletes of all time, including Tom Brady, Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and others. 

She deserves her flowers. She deserves to be recognized for her ability without the qualifications of “Black” or “woman.” She is an incredible athlete and arguably one of the greatest of all time.

“I think she should definitely be considered as one of the greatest athletes ever because she has just broken so many barriers, especially like, her childhood growing up, where she came from, being a woman of color,” Iwachiw said. 

Biles has even smoothly had to handle criticisms about when and how much she smiles.

“I guess just, the amount of things that she’s had to overcome and then hugely surpassing standards and like, blowing everybody away with not only the difficulty, but the skill and the great execution of the skills she has is just mind-blowing,” Iwachiw said.

Simone Biles is changing gymnastics as a sport. She is an inspiration to many other gymnasts from all walks of life.

Placing a limit on her is placing a limit on gymnastics and every other gymnast who aspires to reach the same levels she has.

“In the Gymnastics Club, we always like to say we do it for the love of the sport, and I think a part of that is like constantly challenging yourself,” Iwachiw said. “And I think it’s just important to be able to test your limits.”

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