When you’re the greatest athlete your sport has ever seen, and you possess the mutant ability to casually defy the laws of physics, it’s easy to assume that success comes easy. But as Simone Biles and the rest of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team proved during Sunday’s preliminary round of the Tokyo Olympics, even the best of us are entirely capable of sometimes falling short.
As reported by The Root, despite being heavily favored to win their third consecutive gold medal, Team USA stumbled out the gate on Sunday and failed to finish first in either qualifying or team finals at worlds or the Olympics for the first time since the 2010 World Championships. Thankfully, Team USA’s lackluster scores from Sunday won’t carry over into the gymnastics final on Tuesday, but it’s clear the pressure is beginning to get to Biles, who came in second.
On Monday, the five-time world champion and reigning Olympic gold medalist took to Instagram to address the expectations that’ve been heaped upon her.
“It wasn’t an easy day or my best but I got through it,” she wrote. “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard hahaha! The Olympics is no joke! BUT I’m happy my family was able to be with me virtually🤍 they mean the world to me!”
In the comments, the 24-year-old received an outpouring of love and support from both fans and peers, including fellow Olympians Allyson Felix, Danusia Francis, and Nastia Liukin.
“You are beyond incredible!!!!!!!” Francis commented. “Thanks for your support this week. I’ll be cheering my heart out for you in finals. You’ve got this 💪🏽♥️”
Liukin, who took home more medals than any other gymnast during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, also showed Biles love in her Instagram Stories, according to People.
“I feel like at times, people forget that even the very best in the world are still human—with hearts, nerves, pain, stress, anxiety, pressure,” Liukin wrote. “So let’s continue to spread our love and support to our athletes who are doing something SO difficult already, and then having to also handle the weight of an entire nation and world on their shoulders during a pandemic without fans. AND their number one supporters, their family.”
On Sunday, Biles was one of several members of the U.S. gymnastic team to struggle on the floor. Per USA Today, Jordan Chiles dragged her feet during her routine, Grace McCallum bounced out of bounds during her first tumbling pass, and Biles not only bounced off of the carpet during her floor exercise, but she landed out of bounds on her first vault.
I can’t even begin to comprehend what kind of pressure Biles is facing in Tokyo, but I have all the confidence in the world that she and the rest of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team will get back on track and bring home the gold.