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On Wednesday, Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw came to the defense of American gymnast Simone Biles, who was showered with criticism on social media after withdrawing from competition at the Olympic Games to take care of her mental health.
“Simone Biles has been making America and Houston proud for YEARS,” Crenshaw wrote on Twitter in reference to Biles’ spectacular performance in past competitions. She has been the woman in the arena, a place that internet trolls know nothing about,” he continued.
Crenshaw commented that the disappointment of some is valid, but defended Biles’ decision given that she is the one who is “stepping up” for the U.S. at the Olympics. “We can be disappointed in her decision, but until you’re the one stepping up to win gold, maybe sit this one out,” he tweeted.
In the past, the Texas representative criticized another Olympic athlete for disrespecting the U.S. flag during a competition. When Gwen Berry turned her back on the national symbol during the anthem, Crenshaw called for her removal from the team.
However, his defense of Biles does not seem to respond to political posturing but to the athlete’s motivations for retiring. “We are not just athletes. We are people at the end of the day, and sometimes you have to take a step back,” said Simone Biles after leaving the Olympic Games arena in Tokyo.
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Crenshaw’s tweet joins the flood of messages of support from other athletes that Biles received after her decision. Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci, for example, told CNN, “The more medals you have, when you come back, the heavier the backpack is,” referring to the pressure on athletes when they put victory on the line. For his part, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps said, “We carry a huge weight on our shoulders.”
“I don’t trust myself as much anymore. Maybe I’m getting older. After the performance I did, I just didn’t want to go on. I have to focus on my mental health. At the end of the day we don’t want to be taken out of there on a stretcher,” Simone Biles said after announcing her decision.