Simone Biles’ Tokyo Olympics don’t need a storybook ending on the balance beam

If it was a movie, we would be in the last act. Our hero, the greatest gymnast of all time, stepped out onto the balance beam to the rhythm of the score. The audience would hold their breath, knowing what she had overcome to reach this point – the ‘twisties’ that knocked her out of five Olympic finals and an unusual seventh place in the beam qualifying that gave her her position. favorite event of Guan Chenchen of China.

But since this is a movie, she would also pull off her routine and win gold.

There is, of course, no guaranteed storybook finish for Simone Biles in real life, however. The 24-year-old will return to the Summer Games on Tuesday while her compatriots sleep (4:53 a.m. ET; watch here), which means most of the United States will wake up tomorrow to the news of her eventful journey. in Tokyo. – and most likely his Olympic career – is coming to an end.

Biles, however, doesn’t need to win a gold medal for what happened in Tokyo on Tuesday to be a great and uplifting story. While sports narratives are often framed in a reductive way with the announcement of victory or loss, Biles has already impressed at the Games by prioritizing his mental and physical health over the anticipation of the glory it would bring to the American team. The fact that she gets back on the proverbial horse at all (twisties are less dangerous on balance beam, where she would have to modify her eponymous double back double twist descent to something simpler) means that yes, she could potentially defend her. reign of world champion. But a repeat of his bronze medal at Rio 2016 in this event would also be very inspiring; even a once unthinkable off-podium finish would mean she gave it all.

There will of course be those who will feel disappointed with nothing less than a gold medal, as if gymnast Biles owes us something. But many more Biles fans will be excited for the gymnast to don her Team USA leotard one last time in Tokyo, a move that means almost more to her legacy at this point than a swamp of medals from repeated gold might have it otherwise.

And this question of inheritance is important. Although Biles has already flirted with competing in Paris in 2024, there is also a non-negligible chance that the gymnast will decide to continue his development elsewhere in the future. A recent revealing profile in The New York Times described the impact that being the best gymnast in the world had on her: “You can hear it in her voice. I am old, she says. I am tired. Stress. Everything hurts. She comes across as a distinctly different person in her carefree photos and videos with her boyfriend, and has considered switching to coaching. She wants to travel. She wants to find herself.

Tuesday may not be the end of the credits that anyone would have imagined for her. But Biles doesn’t owe anyone a photo finish. If this was a movie, yes, this would be the time when Biles would prove all of his skeptics wrong. But this is not a movie, and there will be no dramatic swelling of the score. Tuesday there will be only one young woman, one balancing beam and a whole, big, big future ahead of us.

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