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Simone Biles ignites an important conversation in the Chippewa Valley

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:27 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - When asked what she loves about gymnastics, Destiny Crawford said,

“Everything and that I get to make new friends … I want to be a professional and go to the Olympics someday,” Crawford said.

Crawford is one of the millions of young gymnasts watching and cheering on Simone Biles and team USA.

“They’re hyped especially the teen kids they really look up to her and all of the Olympians ... every four years they love watching,” said Gymnastics Director at the YMCA of the Chippewa Valley, Ricia Weber says her older athletes were stunned, yet understanding of Biles’ decision this week.

“The teen kids have been following the story closely because they’re more familiar with the level of fear and disconnect and have experienced it on a lower level,” said Weber.

The decisions made by the gold medal Olympian have started new conversations about athletes and metal health.

“Put mental health first because if you don’t you won’t enjoy your sport and succeed as much as you want to so it’s okay to sit out even the big competitions because that shows how strong of a competitor you really are,” Biles said during a press conference.

Weber says that is a lesson they teach even their youngest students.

“One of the things we train with the gymnasts from very early on is if you’re not mentally ready to do it were going to take a step back and figure it out until you are mentally ready ... if there’s something nagging in the back of your brain a little bit, that can significantly impact you in gymnastics or any sport. We just happen to be higher in the air when we do it,” Weber said.

Not all fans understand and support Biles.

Child and Adolescents Sports Psychiatrist with Marshfield Medical Clinics, Allison Jones says it’s unfortunate but not surprising.

“I think it goes back to a culture of being able to push through it whether that’s physical injury or mental health issues as a sport culture in the US we have really encouraged kids to push through it and high-level athletes but its more than that to say hey I’m not there right now,” Jones said.

Jones is among the 24-year old’s supporters.

“It gives us an opportunity to start having those conversations so they can feel like they’re not under so much pressure,” said Jones.

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