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Front Page Talking Points

FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 02, 2021

Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

Gymnast Simone Biles' pullout at Olympics earns wide admiration and support

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1.gifLook for continuing reactions to the gymnast's decision and share a comment you agree with.

2.gifPick an interesting fact or quote in coverage of a different Olympics topic.

3.gifNow read a local or state sports article and tell why you think it is or isn't well-written.

America's best-known gymnast, 24-year-old Simone Biles, made tough, brave choices last week at the Olympics in Tokyo. She withdrew from team and individual competitions for what she said were mental health and safety reasons after feeling disoriented during an aerial maneuver. She planned to rotate two and a half times, but did just one and a half turns before landing unsteadily. The six-time Olympic medalist and five-time world champion said that she experienced "the twisties," a psychological phenomenon causing a gymnast to lose air awareness while twirling upside down. "It's honestly petrifying trying to do a skill but not having your mind and body in sync," she posted later on Instagram. "Literally can not tell up from down. It's the craziest feeling ever. . . . I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a back seat, work on my mindfulness."

The U.S. team went on to win a silver medal and Suni Lee won an individual gold medal. Biles later added that she was inspired by fellow female Olympian Naomi Osaka, a tennis player who withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon this year for stress reasons. At the start of last week, Biles posted on Instagram: "I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn't affect me but damn sometimes it's hard. . . . The Olympics is no joke!"

Many sportswriters, fans and media commentators expressed sympathy and respect for the superstar athlete's decision. "Biles has given the U.S. and the world a hero to root for -- a hero whose mental health needs tending, something many of her fans can likely relate to," said CNN sports commentator Scottie Andrew. Perhaps inevitably, some nasty sniping surfaced on social media, podcasts and among a few critics trying to turn an individual call into a larger issue. Biles reacted Friday by saying she doesn't "have to explain why I put my health first. Physical health is mental health."

Simone Biles’ advice: "Put mental health first. Because if you don't, then you're not going to enjoy your sport and you're not going to succeed as much as you want to. So it's OK sometimes to even sit out the big competitions to focus on yourself, because it shows how strong of a competitor and person that you really are — rather than just battle through it."

USA Gymnastics says: "We wholeheartedly support Simone's decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many." – Statement last week from the sport’s national governing group

Sportswriter says: "There is bravery in admitting anxiety, inner turmoil, the things no one else can see. There is bravery in admitting human frailty." – Greg Cote, The Miami Herald

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2021

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