Simone Biles’ Return Marks a Shift in Women’s Gymnastics Culture
Simone Biles’ triumphant return to gymnastics challenges the sport’s old culture and highlights the importance of strength and health over outdated body ideals.
Simone Biles, the superstar gymnast and four-time Olympic gold medalist, is set to make her highly anticipated return to competition at the US Classic this weekend. Her comeback comes after facing a challenging period, battling the mental block known as “the twisties” during the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Biles’ return not only promises a display of extraordinary athleticism but also serves as evidence that the culture of women’s gymnastics is evolving for the better. This article delves into how Biles’ return reflects a shift away from the old practices that infantilized athletes and prioritized an unhealthy emphasis on weight in the sport.
Simone Biles: A Glorious Return
After months of speculation, Simone Biles revealed her plans to return to competitive gymnastics. Her resilience and determination have been on full display as she worked hard to overcome the challenges posed by “the twisties.” Recent scores from an untelevised national training camp suggest that Biles may be back to her record-shattering best. Fans are excited to witness her attempt at the Yurchenko double-pike vault, a feat no other woman has ever accomplished.
The End of an Old Culture
Biles’ comeback is more than just a sporting event; it symbolizes a significant transformation in the culture of women’s gymnastics. Traditionally, the sport favored younger athletes with short careers. This emphasis on youth and a childlike body ideal often subjected gymnasts to cruel and unhealthy practices. Coaches pressured athletes to maintain lower weights, leading to abusive and dangerous behaviors like extreme dieting and overtraining.
Changing Perspectives: Emphasis on Strength and Health
Over time, the gymnastics community has realized the importance of shifting the focus from weight to strength and power. Commentators now highlight the critical role of a good strength-to-weight ratio in performing gymnastics routines. The emphasis on physical strength and overall well-being has led to a shift in the age at which athletes reach their peak performance. Biles, at 26, proves that success is achievable in gymnastics well beyond the teenage years.
Risks of the Past
The obsession with staying thin and the pressure to conform to a prepubescent body ideal placed athletes at risk for the female athlete triad, a condition characterized by irregular periods, low energy levels, and decreased bone density. This could lead to severe injuries such as stress fractures. Past gymnasts, like Jennifer Sey and Mattie Larson, shared harrowing accounts of their struggles, including restrictive diets and laxative abuse.
Learning from Past Mistakes
Thankfully, the gymnastics community has learned from these past mistakes. Understanding the importance of proper nutrition and embracing an athlete’s adult body have become essential factors in developing long-lasting and successful careers in the sport. Gymnasts now have access to better resources and knowledge, leading to healthier and more sustainable training methods.
Embracing Strength and Diversity
Today, many gymnasts focus on strength training, which has proven crucial in their longevity and success. Athletes like Canadian gymnast Ellie Black demonstrate the benefits of weight training, as they continue to excel in their late 20s and compete at multiple Olympics.
A New Generation of Gymnasts
Joining Simone Biles at the US Classic this weekend are other talented athletes who challenge the preconceived notions of gymnasts’ age and appearance. Olympic gold medalist Jade Carey, at 23, and Jordan Chiles, with three medals from last year’s world championships at 22, showcase the sport’s evolving landscape.
“Discover how Simone Biles’ remarkable comeback to gymnastics signals a shift away from outdated body ideals, emphasizing strength and health in the sport. Learn how her return marks a turning point in women’s gymnastics culture.”
Simone Biles’ return to gymnastics marks a pivotal moment in the sport’s history. It signals a positive shift away from the old culture that harmed athletes physically and emotionally. The focus on strength, health, and embracing diversity paves the way for a new generation of gymnasts to flourish. As the sport continues to evolve, the emphasis on the physical well-being and empowerment of athletes will ensure that gymnastics thrives in a safer and more inclusive environment.