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The Masks of Simone Biles

by Melanie Gruenwald

Simone Biles, the 24- year old GOAT (Greatest of All Time) world-champion gymnast, withdrew from the Olympics this past week. After concerns about a physical injury, we were curious to learn more when we heard she withdrew due to mental health concerns.

In Transformative Kabbalah, we study ‘masks’ as those we are born with, masks others put on us, and those we choose for ourselves. If we carry mask awareness, then we have the opportunity to change those masks if they are no longer serving us.

Just over a week ago, we knew Simone Biles as an incredible athlete, written about by the Wall Street Journal with regard to her ‘grace under pressure’. She’s a force, a friend of Aly Raisman. Fierce, accomplishing what no woman has ever done in gymnastics.  She holds the most world medals in US history (14). Ms. Biles has demonstrated the power of using her voice, not just her physical gifts, to make an impact on history. She’s a survivor of abuse by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar and an advocate for making systemic change.

Mask: Simone Biles returning to Olympics to be a voice for abuse survivors

Mask: Biles entered the Tokyo Olympics as more than a superstar gymnast. She was also the face of the Summer Games for NBC and a leading voice against sexual abuse in her sport. (NY Times)

Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles told Hoda Kotb in an interview in April that gymnastics wasn’t her sole reason for continuing to compete. She said she’s driven to be a voice for change.

“If there weren’t a remaining survivor in the sport they would’ve just brushed it to the side,” Biles said.

Mask: Social media

Simone Biles’s profile on Instagram reads:

Olympic Gold Medalist
Dog Mom @thebilesfrenchies
just laughing thru life
pizza connoisseur

She’s more than an extraordinary Olympic medalist. She’s a young woman with diverse, ‘normal’ interests. It is often hard to remember that normalcy when we see incredible strength of mind and body, as she practices and competes in gymnastics.

Mask: Athlete

Before the Olympics, she posted on social media, asking people to remember she’s a person outside of her leotard.

@simonebiles on Instagram

posting a selfie so y’all don’t forget what I look like when I’m not in a leo 🧡

This past week was a reminder of her humanity, her struggles. She realized the mask was hers to choose. Perhaps not in that framework- but she courageously chose to remove the gymnast mask, and show us her courage and vulnerabilities.

Mask: I’m more than my accomplishments

@simonebiles on Instagram: the outpouring love & support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.

Mask: Hero

Former Olympian gymnast Nastia Liukin penned a heartfelt thank-you letter to Biles for showing the world who she is beyond an athlete.

“Thank you for showing the depth of who you are beyond an athlete as a leader, role model, mental health warrior and person,” Liukin wrote. “You came here as a gymnast, and you’re leaving as a hero.”

@Simonebiles, your authenticity is a lesson to us all. Continue to speak your truth, create your narrative, and be an advocate for people who may not always feel safe to share their struggles. You’ve earned yet another gold medal in our hearts.


Anna Roth · August 1, 2021 at 2:07 am

“You’ve earned her another gold medal in our hearts”

Diane Gimber · August 5, 2021 at 3:42 pm

Thank you Melanie. It’s a beautiful story, becoming a legend.

Patty Howe · August 5, 2021 at 4:16 pm

Very nicely presented. Thank you for sharing your insights and views. Her authenticity appears to be so very heartfelt….a beautiful unfolding.

David Sanders · August 6, 2021 at 6:19 am

As an addendum to your tribute to Simone Biles, I watched in awe as Simone placed her gymnast mask on a last time in Tokyo and climbed up onto the balance beam. To be human is a constant balancing act. When we are fully aware of the mask then we can wear it or shed it.

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