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We need to honor the fact that Simone Biles is human, despite her 'superhuman' abilities

Like the rest of the Western hemisphere, I woke up this morning to the surprising news that gymnastic superstar Simone Biles had backed out of the Olympic team finals after an uncharacteristically bad vault performance. After some conflicting reports about a possible injury, it became clear that she was physically fine—it was her mental state that had gotten twisted.

Cue the armchair commentators complaining that she had let the team down, that she's only concerned about herself, and that she shouldn't have gone into the competition if she didn't have the mental toughness to handle it.

Hoo boy. Let's all just take a deep breath and step back for a second.


We've seen the superstar athletes, the stand-outs, the GOATS before—but none of them have been Simone Biles. I mean that in a figurative sense as well as a literal one. She's her own individual being, but she's also a stand-out among GOATs.

Biles hasn't just dominated her sport for the past decade; she's single-handedly pushed the sport to places no one has ever seen. She's done things no other female gymnast has even attempted, much less succeeded at. Michael Phelps may have dominated in swimming with gold medals, but his individual feats were fractional advancements in the sport (sometimes beating records by fractions of a second), not gigantic leaps to where no athlete in the field had gone before. Judges haven't even figured out how to score her. Biles' accomplishments have been mind-blowing.

What that kind of dominance does to a person mentally is unique, especially when it's happening in the era of social media bombardment. The reality is that no other human being on the planet knows what it feels like to walk—or miraculously defy gravity—in Biles' shoes.

Biles has repeatedly been called superhuman, unbeatable, unstoppable. She has been called not just the greatest gymnast in the world, but the greatest athletein the world. And unlike in the past, when public commentary or criticism came from people with some knowledge of a sport and access to a television broadcast, millions of people now constantly pour out their opinions about star athletes on social media. How many times have seen Simone Biles' name "trending"? That does something to a person, even if they try to ignore it.

Michael Jordan has talked about how he doesn't know if he would have survived the social media era, and many athletes have talked about the toll today's media environment takes on them mentally. For Biles to have risen to and maintained her GOAT status at the height of this era is a whole new world. None of us—literally none of us—has any idea what it's like to be her.

Obviously, you don't get to where Simone Biles is without extraordinary mental toughness. A woman on an eight-year winning streak, who has won 30 Olympic and World Championship medals (now 31, with the team silver in Tokyo), clearly does not have issues handling pressure.

But every human being has limits, and our turning Biles into a superhuman figure hasn't done her any favors.

Let's put it this way. Biles's body is exceptionally strong, her muscles and tendons and ligaments accustomed to being pushed beyond what any of us can do, her joints able to handle all manner of pressure—and yet, if something went wrong and she landed strangely and broke her ankle, we would all accept and honor that injury. Even if she pulled or twisted something and needed to take a break from the competition to let it heal, we would accept that. We would celebrate all that she had accomplished up to that point and grieve with her for the unfortunate injury. We would never expect her to compete in that compromised physical state, we wouldn't call her a bad teammate, and no one would remove her from their good graces.

Why is it so difficult to accept that a mental injury can be just as debilitating?

Biles's decade of dominance has proven that her mind is exceptionally strong, her focus and concentration and confidence are accustomed to being pushed beyond what any of us can do, her ability to perform can withstand all manner of pressure—and yet, when something went wrong mentally and she needed to take a break from competition to let it heal, she immediately lost people's support. People somehow expect her to be able to "push through" it, as though a mental impairment isn't as real or serious as a physical one—and as if a mental issue doesn't pose a physical threat in a sport that involves hurling your body into the air in ways that can kill you if you don't do it right.

Few of us understand the psychology of elite sports in general, much less the psychology of performing objectively dangerous physical feats, much less the psychology of having everyone expect perfection in dangerous physical feats during high-pressure competition. Add on surviving sexual abuse from your sport's main physician and being an advocate for others in the same position. Add on the stupid, racist, sexist commentary and criticism that come with being a Black woman in the spotlight. Add on the pressure of not having lost an all-around competition in eight years. Add on constantly being painted as superhuman.

Biles has already shown unbelievable endurance and proven her mental and physical skill, talent, and toughness multiple times over. She owes us nothing. It's unfortunate that Biles hit a wall at this particular moment, but even with intense training and preparation, we don't get to choose when our mental or physical limitations will hit.

We have no clue what it's like to be Simone Biles, but we all know what it's like to be human. Let's listen with compassion when she tells us that she's not superhuman after all, and let her do what she needs to do.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Co-sleeping isn't for everyone.

The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.

However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.

Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”

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