Opinion: Punishing Simone Biles for her greatness is act of foolishness by gymnastics officials

INDIANAPOLIS — Simone Biles still isn’t the problem.

Having learned nothing from the mocking it got two years ago, when it unfairly punished the world’s greatest gymnast for its own bad choices, the International Gymnastics Federation is poised to do it all over again. Only this time, it will be the entire world asking just what the FIG is thinking.

On Saturday night, Biles became the first woman to compete a Yurchenko double pike, a vault so difficult few men even attempt it. She is pushing the boundaries of her sport and, much like Michael Phelps’ quest for eight swimming gold medals in Beijing, Biles’ efforts to challenge the notion of what’s possible will be all the talk of the Tokyo Olympics.  

Yet, based on guidance from the FIG, judges at the U.S. Classic gave her new vault a start value – the measure of its difficulty – of just 6.6 points.

Pretty much everyone agrees that woefully undervalues the skill. By at least 0.2 points if you’re going by precedent, as much as 0.4 if you use the eye test.


Simone Biles landed her Yurchenko double pike for the first time in [email protected] // #USClassicpic.twitter.com/j07ZweBZ8H

“I feel like now we just have to get what we get,” Biles said afterward. “There's no point in putting up a fight, because they're not going to reward the correct value. But that’s OK. We're just going to take it and just be quiet.”

No, actually, it is not OK. The FIG is being pig-headed and petty, just as it was two years ago when it undervalued Biles’ double-twisting, double somersault dismount on balance beam.

The FIG should be celebrating the unique combination of natural talent, hard work and smart training that makes Biles a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, and commending her for challenging herself and her sport. Instead, gymnastics officials are embarrassed by the massive gap Biles has opened on the rest of the field, and are throwing up artificial barriers to try and narrow it.

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