Fans are comparing Simone Biles to Kerri Strug at the 1996 Olympics to show what happens when athletes are pushed too far
- Simone Biles withdrew from two competitions at the Tokyo Olympics because of her mental health.
- Some fans are draw comparisons to Kerri Strug, who won gold in 1996 with a broken ankle.
- Biles' experience has led some fans to view Strug's historic moment differently.
When Simone Biles withdrew from the team and individual all-around competitions at the Tokyo Olympics this week, the world was shocked.
As the most public athlete going into the Olympics, Biles was expected to win big, but she removed herself from the competition on Tuesday to prioritize her mental health.
Fans, including celebrities, commended her decision, while some people drew comparisons to Kerri Strug, the US gymnast who helped her team win gold at the 1996 Olympic Games despite breaking her ankle.
Strug made history at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta
During the women's all-around competition in 1996, the Magnificent Seven was teetering between placing first or second. The difference between winning gold or silver appeared to come down to Strug's two vaults.
On the first, Strug's ankle gave out on the landing. As she iced it, she famously asked her coach, "Do we need this?"
Her coach, Bela Karolyi, said, "Kerri, we need you to go one more time. We need you one more time for the gold."
On her second attempt, Strug stuck the landing and the crowd erupted. She threw her hands in the air before dropping to the floor and crawling off the mat because of the pain. The image of Strug being carried to the winner's podium with a wrapped leg became a symbol of strength.
The team won the gold medal, becoming the first USA team to win gold in the all-around at the Olympics, and Strug became an American hero.
Strug's moment is being viewed differently following Biles' decision
After Biles' announcement, some viewers on social media pointed to Strug's moment as a way to criticize Biles for withdrawing from the competition. One Twitter user said they were "disappointed" and called her a "quitter."
Others, however, said the moments represent what happens when athletes are pushed too far.
"I remember watching Kerri Strug vault on an already damaged ankle. I was a teenager, but even then I knew there was something toxic about the culture and expectations that led to her doing it," Dani Alexis wrote.
-Dani Alexis, Cromched of Bone (@danialexis) July 27, 2021
"Our athletes shouldn't have to destroy themselves to meet our standards," Byron Heath wrote in a now-viral Facebook post Tuesday. "If giving empathetic, authentic support to our Olympians means we'll earn less gold medals, I'm happy to make that trade."
Another Twitter user said both gymnasts are heroes.
"Kerri Strug was a hero for competing when she was able, and Simone Biles was a hero for not competing when she wasn't," Jay Brannen wrote on Twitter. "It can be both."
-Jay Brannan (@jaybrannan) July 27, 2021
Strug has shown her support for Biles
For her part, Strug showed her support for Biles, writing on Twitter Tuesday, "Sending love to you @Simone_Biles."
-Kerri Strug (@kerristrug96) July 27, 2021
Her message also included a goat emoji, a reference to the acronym GOAT, or "greatest of all time."
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