Simone Biles: Pathetic or Brave?


Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels

Kacey Fisher, Online Staff Writer

During the summer of 2020, there was little to do other than stay in the comfort of our homes and debate the flavor of the air. It didn’t help that the Pandemic caused the delay of the 2020 Olympics. What was there to do while in the confines of our homes? Who remembers? What matters is that the ‘2020 Olympics’ returned in the summer of 2021, when the temperature skyrocketed and the athletes were more prepared than ever. 

This summer we saw one of America’s greatest athletes, Simone Biles, withdraw from the all-around competition and the finals for vault and uneven bars to focus on her mental health. She arrived in Tokyo ready to go; however, the pressure of the nation grew heavier on her with every passing day. Biles was originally planning to perform a 2½-twist, but she couldn’t track her position during her vault at the team final, and she did not stick the landing after 1½ twists. Losing control of their bodies in the air is what many gymnasts have come to know as the ‘twisties’ and it is a very jarring experience. While many considered Biles’ decision to withdraw from competitions brave, other people regarded her decision with disdain and labeled it “pathetic and cowardly.”

Princeton Day School is the home of various elite athletic teams and, by extension, multifaceted and hard-working athletes with varied opinions on Biles’ decision. Senior David ‘Dave Time’ Khan, basketball superstar and current member of the PDS Track and Field Club is neutral because he “wouldn’t say it was pathetic or that it wasn’t brave, but at the end of the day Simone did what she had to do, you know?” Senior  Gabriella Thomas, a member of the varsity Girls Field Hockey team, said that the choice was “brave, for sure. She’s the best at what she does and it takes a lot to be willing to subvert people’s expectations and brave the inevitable hate that came from her decision.” For these opinions, there seemed to be a common understanding that mental blocks can be as equally devastating to athletes as physical injuries. 

On the flip side, senior Hunter Von Zelowitz, a long-time member of our baseball team, “wouldn’t say it was pathetic, but pretty soft considering injuries Olympians have played through in the past.” Curt Schilling, a Major League baseball player, won the 2004 American League Championship Series’ sixth game after a surgery that sutured his tendon to his ankle tissue. His ankle was bleeding during this game. Or think, Kerri Strug. She competed on the vault with an injured ankle at the 1996 Olympic Games and won gold for the country. These are examples of athletes who have chosen to play through injuries that could have permanently injured them. Despite Strug’s amazing feat of determination, she extended her own support for Simone Biles’ decision and took to Twitter to say, “Sending love to you @Simone_Biles Team UNITED States of America”.  

For Olympic athletes, there is pressure to be the best representative of their sport for their country and Biles’ decision to withdraw from her events prompted a larger discussion regarding the implications of different reactions. What does it say about viewers when they brand an athlete brave or pathetic for displaying fear? Are athletes not truly just human beings like the rest of us? The general consensus seemed to be one of relative understanding paired with mild disappointment for Simone’s predicament, but disagreement is the perfect forum for demonstrating the thoughtfulness and compassion of our Princeton Day School community. 


Works Cited:

  • Manfred, T. (2013, May 4). athletes playing through extreme injuries. Business Insider. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from 
  • Thompson, S. (2021, August 2). Kerri Strug offers support for Simone Biles. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from 
  • Macur, J. (2021, July 28). Simone Biles is withdrawing . The New York Times. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from