On Monday, two of our Olympic gymnasts competed for individual medals on the balance beam. Team USA had two athletes who qualified for the event, Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez. All the buzz was centered around dynamo Biles, who has taken the Olympics and the sport of gymnastics by storm.
Biles described her performance as “disappointing” and told her coach: “I’m not going to medal with that routine.” A small slip while executing a punch front on the slender, four-inch wide beam came at large cost — a 1/2 point deduction.
She did, in fact, medal, taking home the bronze. Teammate Hernandez took home the silver medal after a terrific routine and the gold medal went to the outstanding Sanne Wevers of the Netherlands.
Following the competition, the gymnasts gathered in the media room to take questions from the surly gaggle.
“I’m so happy she could share with the world what she does in practice, and that’s exactly what she did tonight,” the graceful Biles said of Hernandez’s performance. “I told her, ‘You did it, good job, and I couldn’t be more proud of you.’ And I’m so excited for her, so excited. She deserves it more than anybody.”
And then the questions turned to Biles’ own performance.
Asked if her disappointing performance on the beam “fired her up” for her next competition for a medal, the floor exercise, Biles responded: “I don’t know how to answer that.” ESPN described Biles as delivering her response “flatly.”
Then media went in for the kill. Biles was asked if she was upset that the “drive for five,” the “quest” for winning a record-setting five gold medals in a single Olympics by a gymnast, was at an end. She replied, “Not necessarily. It’s something you guys [in the media] shove into my head, but I don’t put that much stress on myself because I am only 19, and I think you guys want it more than I do. I just want to perform the routines that I practiced.”
The gymnast had no blame for the balance beam’s notorious difficulty — after all, the other competitors performed on the same apparatus. And Biles did not take the media’s bait to assign blame. “No, not necessarily, because we’ve done these routines for so long. It’s just one more,” she said. “And we don’t really think of it as 4 inches. We just kind of do it.”
How refreshing to see a humble champion praise her competitors and and teammates while managing the cranky media like a seasoned professional. I wish our politicians would follow her lead.