2020 Tokyo Olympics: Former Olympian Nastia Liukin Pens Heartfelt Message to Simone Biles

by Jonathan Howard

In the aftermath of Simone Biles’ decision to step away from competition in Tokyo, tons of criticism has flown her way. Despite being the GOAT of gymnastics, some felt it was necessary to judge the decision harshly. Luckily, those who know what it is like to be in her position have supported her.

During her team performance, Biles landed a vault but clearly wasn’t 100%. She quickly left the floor and huddled with a team trainer. Shortly after, Biles was seen in sweats cheering on teammates. While some pointed out that her departure likely led to Team USA taking silver, there is more to it than that.

Had Simone Biles attempted to compete through her issues, she likely wouldn’t have been able to compete to the same level she is used to. Jordan Chiles came in and performed very well. While the USA took silver for the first time since 2008, it could have been worse. If Biles stays in the competition and falls or stumbles, the United States likely doesn’t medal at all.

Many times great leaders have to realize when they are not needed. Simone Biles knows better than anyone else what is best for her and her team. Biles has also decided to sit out the all-around individual competition. The move is likely to avoid injury in the event she isn’t able to focus on her performances. Casual spectators don’t always realize the risk of serious injury is very high if a gymnast is unable to land properly.

Nastia Liukin Reaches Out to Simone Biles

Via Instagram, 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the all-around, Nastia Liukin wrote a letter to Biles. The letter repeated ‘Thank you’ as a refrain throughout. The gymnastics legend has a balance beam move named after her and competed for the USA on multiple occasions.

“Thank you for showing the depth of who you are beyond an athlete as a leader, role model, mental health warrior, and person,” Liukin wrote in the post. There are very few who understand the intricacies of the gymnastics world like Biles and Liukin, among others. The focus on the sport at the Olympics is always high. Then, there are pressures to take down perceived international enemies such as Russia and China. Sometimes it seems the Cold War is still alive and well at the Olympic Games.

The letter touched on Simone Biles’ leadership and ability athletically as well. “Thank you for taking the sport of gymnastics to new heights as the unanimous GOAT. No one will be remembered for any single routine, competition, or medal,” Liukin said. “You, however, will undeniably be remembered by many for the compassion and bravery shown here in Tokyo. You came here as a gymnast, and you’re leaving as a hero.”

The year of athlete empowerment is upon us. Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles, and other young athletes are leading the way by speaking out for themselves and by extension their peers in sports. Biles, at 24 years old, has a resume like no one else in the sport. Seeing her get support from those in the sport is not just good to see, but it shows her decision was the right one to make.