This shouldn’t happen to anyone, but with a gymnastics career for history, Simone Biles will remain a cautionary story for our times—unless we leave her behind for the next hour’s media sensation, again ignoring the signs of caution.
Ms. Biles said on Instagram that her problem was “the twisties,” a phenomenon in which gymnasts lose the ability to keep track of their bodies at high speed. It happens. Some years ago, four-time All-Star second baseman Chuck Knoblauch became unable to throw a ball accurately to first base. He saved his career by moving to the outfield. Ms. Biles returned to the balance beam this week and won a bronze medal.
What still remains is the same two-word problem—mental health—cited at the French Open for unable-to-cope tennis star Naomi Osaka (“it’s O.K. to not be O.K.”) or countless anonymous American kids. The coronavirus pandemic will recede eventually. The mental-health pandemic won’t.
The buildup to her Tokyo appearance gave the impression that Simone Biles’s Olympics career was on the cusp of a fairy-tale ending. So let’s enter the mess that became her Olympics through the door of a fairy tale.
Once upon a time, in a faraway land called Harvard University, a young man named Mark Zuckerberg came upon the idea of using the internet so students in college could connect easily and instantly with friends. It was a wonderful idea, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that let Mark live in a magical place called Silicon Valley.