Simone Biles accuses IGF of reverse “meritocracism”

Simone Biles doesn’t appear to suffer from insecurity.

But even after she’s collected more hardware than any other athlete in the history of her sport, Biles says she is still not getting rewarded adequately for her other-worldly feats.

Simon Biles

Some may call it confidence, assuredness, even boastfulness;  I call it passive whining.  In other words, just say it and stop with the subtle cues of offense.

The five-time Olympic medalist is so dominant that the rules of elite gymnastics intentionally put her at a scoring disadvantage. The International Gymnastics Federation says that restrictions to Biles’ potential point totals in competition are meant to dissuade other athletes from taking dangerous risks. But the 24-year-old suspects there is another factor at play, she said in episode two of her Facebook Watch docuseries, “Simone vs Herself.”

“I’m almost 99.9% sure if any other athlete were to do it besides me, they would give it correct credit,” Biles said, reflecting on the valuation of her balance-beam dismount from the 2019 world championships. “But since I’m already way ahead of everybody, they want to pull it back.”

She added: “Sometimes they don’t think it’s fair that I win all the time.”

“99.9% sure” is pretty damn sure, but I get the sense that the .1% of “not damn sure” is rattling around this story like a persistent little grievance bug since Biles can’t quite fathom pride for a job well done in and of itself.

Still, she gives obligatory lip service because professional athletes know what to say.  They are groomed from an early age when their godly, transcendent talents became apparent to mortals, to recite rote humble graciousness for the public onlookers.

But Biles refuses to allow scoring discrepancies to hold her back mentally. Now more than ever, she’s motivated by internal forces.

“I just want to see, before I hang my grips and leo up, how far can I go,” Biles said. “I feel like we’re right on the brink of that.”

That’s convincing.

Curiously, Biles has touched upon a certain meritocratic dynamic that shadows many accomplishments (and lack thereof) in modern society.

As she said,

“I’m almost 99.9% sure if any other athlete were to do it besides me, they would give it correct credit,” Biles said, reflecting on the valuation of her balance-beam dismount from the 2019 world championships. “But since I’m already way ahead of everybody, they want to pull it back.”

She added: “Sometimes they don’t think it’s fair that I win all the time.”

This is an insidiously self-flattering accusation of reverse “meritocracism.”  Biles is asserting that she is such a spectacular gymnast that the playing field was artificially leveled in order to align her lofty performance with the pack’s subterranean accomplishment.

See where I’m going?

Simone alleges she was “punished” for daring to possess stratospheric talent in favor of the not-so-gifted who are “rewarded” by keeping her performances muted through scoring manipulation.

She whimpers about a stupid game. One that she has mastered. Does she understand her complaints are the reversed mirror image of another cultural phenomenon that afflicts many people who are not necessarily seeking international acclaim and adulation? They just want to get into college.

Let’s hypothesize a situation in a world where competition on Simone’s US Olympics team is fierce and the athletes represent the very best.  Now a mediocre gymnast wants to join the team but her unremarkable talent does not compare, even faintly, to the team members, but for the sake of diversifying the team’s talents, ie, not everyone should represent the best gymnasts in the United States, meaning the average player should be represented on the roster as well.   This average gymnast is given a spot on the team while one of the talented girls is bumped off to make room.

Not fair to the objective mind (an extinct arbiter in the modern world), but this is exactly what Simone implies about her situation. She claims she was judged on the basis of her abilities, or specifically, her outstanding abilities. Rather than articulating a curve that raises standards, the curve was dampened to bring standards down, at her expense.

Meritocracism is a horrible thing.


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