Why Simone Biles Is Still The Greatest Gymnast, Even Without 5 Gold Medals
After a costly fall during the balance beam finals on Aug. 14, Simone Biles ended her run at Olympic history without the fifth gold medal that she was expected to earn. Biles would have been, and was fully anticipated to be, the first female gymnast ever to earn five gold medals in a single Olympics. Although fate kept Biles from reaching that achievement, that shouldn't be the story of her time at this Olympics. It doesn't matter that Biles didn't get the fifth gold, because her story is so much bigger than the one goal she didn't reach.
Even without the five gold medals, Biles still made Olympic history. She is the first American woman to win gold on the vault, and she won the individual all-around competition by an unprecedented margin. She'll always be a part of the Final Five, the cementation of Marta Karoyli's legacy, and her power and technical skills have absolutely changed the world of gymnastics from here on out.
What's even more important than what Biles has achieved is her impact on the young generation watching the Olympics right now. Young girls, and particularly young black girls, are watching her achieve truly incredible things in Rio right now. The confidence and inspiration they will gain from Biles' performance is a million times more important than how many medals she earned, and it doesn't do anyone any good to focus on what she didn't accomplish rather than all the things that she has.
As a minority, it's incredibly hard to find role models who aren't torn apart in the media. It happened with Gabby Douglas this week, who got endlessly criticized for the smallest things in Rio, like not putting her hand on her heart during the National Anthem and not standing up to cheer for teammate Aly Raisman. That level of scrutiny is especially unfair in a sport in which the participants are overwhelmingly white and it's already hard enough to be different than the majority of your peers. Biles isn't receiving criticism in the same way as Douglas, but for the greater good, it's better to move on from the subject completely.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter what didn't happen; only what came to pass. Another incredible black young woman walked away with two of the greatest prizes in sports, and proved that she earned her spot at the top despite all the haters. It's definitely disappointing to see Biles fall just short of a goal that truly was within her reach, but that slight disappointment deserves about as much attention as her hair or body shape.