Competing in the Olympics is one of the highest achievements an athlete can accomplish. To even qualify for this competition is an immense honor, let alone being skilled enough to win a medal. The hunger for gold, however, has caused many families, coaches, and even whole countries to view their representatives not as humans and athletes, but as pathways to victory.
Gymnasts, especially, have been targeted by this immense pressure to put themselves on the line for the sake of their country. Kerri Strug, a US Olympic gymnast, suffered a severe injury to her ankle after under-rotating a vault. She was coerced by her coach to perform one more vault to secure the gold medal. Not only was this immense pressure coming from her coach, but the entire nation made her responsible for its success. Kerri performed the final vault, possibly sparking what would be the end of her carreer as an athlete. What’s worse is that Roza Galieva, the Russian competitor, scored low enough on her floor routine that Kerri did not even need to perform her final vault for the US to win gold.
When Simone Biles stepped down from the competition in the Olympics in 2021, she was met with an incredible backlash from citizens all across the US. People called her a coward, selfish, unpatriotic, and any number of other words based on their views on the situation. When it comes down to it, Simone made the best choice for her own body. The truth is that countless gymnasts, not just Kerri and Simone, from all sports and countries all over the world have felt this immense pressure to sacrifice their own wellbeing for the glory of their country, repeatedly sending them to specialists in sports medicine Mississauga ON.
When a nation responds to these events, it is essential that the narrative shifts away from objectifying these athletes. Kerri, Simone, and all other athletes are people before they are anything else, and they do not owe their countries their personal safety in exchange for the glory of gold.