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US gymnastics championships: Simone Biles wins record ninth national all-around title

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Simone Biles entered the 2020 Olympic Games with a record 25 World Championship medals and four moves so difficult that she alone out of all the world’s gymnasts could perform them.

But what took place on the competition floor made history in a way no one could have expected. On the first event of the games, which were held in July 2021, the athlete, who has an unparalleled ability to flip and twist, suddenly could no longer find herself in the air. Simone had “the twisties” — a complete loss of ability to perceive her body in space. The condition is known to lead to devastating injuries, as it nearly did for her that day. When she returned to the competition floor, it was to put on her warm-ups, give her team a pep talk and withdraw from competition.

I’ve witnessed many incredible moments in athletics, but as I watched from home that day, I knew I was watching a victory that redefined the others: Simone’s decision to value her own safety, on her own terms, above the voracious demands of an abusive and toxic athletic system. It was a moment so many of us had fought for, for so long.

I’m not just a fan. I’m a former competitive gymnast myself (though let’s be clear — Simone and I occupy entirely different stratospheres). In 2016 I became a whistle-blower, telling the story of how Larry Nassar, the former doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics, sexually assaulted me. By the time he was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison, over 200 gymnasts had spoken up, and Simone was one of them. But we all knew that Mr. Nassar was a symptom of a much deeper problem — a broken and abusive system that valued money and medals over the health and safety of its athletes.

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