TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 03: Simone Biles of Team United States looks on during the Women's Balance Beam Final on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on August 03, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Some people would be offended by my realization about Simone Biles, but oh well.

After watching Simone Biles pull out of the USA Gymnastics team event, I thought back to Kerri Strug’s renowned one-leg vault. I checked it on YouTube, because everything is there, and watched as on one leg Strug fell and then limped back to leap again. It was a landmark Olympic moment that I experienced live on television as it happened. But, for some reason, it didn’t inspire me as much this time. In fact, I had a sour taste in my mouth. Really watching it all these years later and in hindsight being 20/20, I found it to be sickening.

Why was I sickened? All I could see were Kerri Strug’s imploring, scared eyes as she looked at her coach, Bela Karolyi, who kept shouting back, “You can do it!” Do what? Risk further bodily injury? Sure it’s great to be tough, and all athletes should be; it’s a prerequisite if you want to be the best. But, on the flip-side, a coach, especially of a teenaged athlete’s first job, should look out for the young woman he is coaching; by lookout for, I mean important things like her safety and well-being. Bela Karolyi was a great coach but a terrible human being. In an interview about this great Olympic moment, Karolyi reminisced, and she is what he said about that iconic Olympic moment.

“I can’t feel my leg,” Strug told Karolyi.
“We got to go one more time,” Karolyi said. “Shake it out.”
“Do I have to do this again?” Strug asked.
“Can you, can you?” Karolyi wanted to know.
“I don’t know yet,” said Strug. “I will do it. I will; I will.”
The injury forced Strug’s early retirement at 18 years old. Dominique Moceanu, a generational talent, also retired from injuries shortly after. They were top gymnasts literally pushed to the breaking point and then put out to pasture. Coach Karolyi and Larry Nassar (the serial sexual abuser) continued their long careers while the athletes were treated as disposable resources.
Larry Nassar and Bela Karolyi
More than 300 women, including Olympians such as Aly RaismanMcKayla Maroney, and Simone Biles, accused Nassar of sexually abusing them as children by putting his fingers in their vaginas under the guise of medical “treatments,” per the Chicago Tribune—and more than 150 of those women confronted him during his trial.

Much of the scandal has been focused on where the abuse took place—and who there allowed this abuse to happen for years on end. One such place is in rural Texas at a ranch-turned-training center owned by Martha and Bela Karolyi, a Romanian couple who coached dozens of elite gymnasts for decades.

The only way for the girls to reach their parents while at the ranch was by using one of two payphones. And even once cell phones became common, they weren’t useful since it was almost impossible to get service. Once you got in, there was no getting out. You couldn’t escape the place. Are you getting a sense that Karolyi was maybe not the best person to be coaching kids?

Many gymnasts have even gone as far as to say the Karolyis inflicted emotional abuse or encouraged them to restrict their eating, NBC News reported. But, of course, it didn’t help that the food was, in the words of a former national gymnastics team trainer, Melanie Seaman, to The Washington Post, “really, really, really awful” and that, as Raisman says, “everyone felt they were being fully watched” with each bite.

Romanian author Stejarel Olaru wrote in “Nadia si Securitatea” that Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci — the first gymnast to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics, in 1976 — is among the victims who were starved to the point of developing eating disorders, slapped, and denied medical treatment, according to the report. The book reports occurrences like this back to the 1960s! “Starving the gymnasts was a regular practice by the Karolyis,” Olaru wrote, according to the report. “The girls ate toothpaste at night before going to bed — this is how hungry they were. In some cases, they talked about drinking water from the toilet tank in secret because they were often not allowed to drink water. The book also reported that Bela would eat steak and fries and have the girls watch while he did it.

USA Gymnastics Cover-up

The 2016 Olympic games looked to be a huge coup for USA gymnastics with stars like  Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez, and Gabby Douglass — Team USA was poised to shine like never before on the world stage at the Rio Olympics.

And if USAG needed any more reason for an adoring public to engage, the 2016 games would be the last hurrah for coach Marta Karolyi. Old-school taskmasters Marta and her husband, Bela, had helped transform the sport in the US after defecting from Romania in the 1980s. So, we wouldn’t want any bad publicity.

A year before Team USA landed in Rio, USAG’s longtime team doctor Larry Nassar had been accused of sexually assaulting some of the team’s top athletes. Officials reported Larry Nassar to the FBI in July 2015, but the allegations remained a secret that threatened to destroy the organization’s carefully crafted image.

Aug. 4, 2016, when IndyStar published the first installment of the series “Out of Balance.” The investigation found USAG had an executive policy of not reporting allegations of sexual abuse to police or child welfare authorities as required by law in Indiana and most other states.

That first story, published on the eve of the Rio Games opening ceremony, detailed the cases of four coaches who went on to molest young women after USAG failed to act on prior complaints about the coaches’ earlier sexual misconduct. So, USAG covered this up for their own benefit, and once again, just like the Karolyi’s didn’t give a damn about the women that were competing.

Simone Biles, did she quit?

Biles reported being abused by Nassar when she was younger, so as a young girl, she was sexually abused, and the USAG covered it up! Yesterday she pulled out of the team event, and many people are now calling her a quitter. Does this seem fair? Being abused as a child stays with most for a lifetime, so unless you are Simone Biles, how do you know why she did what she did? For the most part, the people saying she quit have no idea what it’s like to be traumatically abused and most certainly do not know what it’s like to be a high-performing athlete.

My biggest question would be, why do these girls even want to represent USAG after what they were put through? Biles is the GOAT for Women’s Gymnastics, and the Gold Medals she has already won prove her greatness. At one point in her life, she was a victim, and now she is a survivor! Quitters don’t survive what happened to her and win gold medals.

How about this? The perfect ending to a messed up story

It depends on whose interpretation you believe, but Strugs final vault wasn’t even needed to win the Gold! If you ask Karolyi, he’ll tell you two Russian gymnasts still had their floor exercise routines to finish, and who knows what could have happened? If there were two left, they needed nearly perfect scores to overtake what seemed even to them to be an insurmountable U.S. lead. In truth, one Russian had finished and had not had her score posted, but she did not do a routine that was going to earn her a 10, or anything close to it. As things turned out, they received scores of 9.5 and 9.75 and the Americans won by .821. As things turned out, Strug’s vault wasn’t needed. Really, it wasn’t needed!

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