One day after the February 7 2021 Super Bowl LV victory of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Twitter user @yungwonk (Regina Pearson) quote-tweeted another user’s praise of quarterback Tom Brady with additional information:
Simone Biles was banned from doing moves bc they couldn't score them fairly and bc they were too dangerous for other gymnasts to attempt https://t.co/wBbeRqP36e
— Regina Pearson (@yungwonk) February 9, 2021
In the quoted tweet, Stewart Flaherty said:
Serious question. If Tom Brady having won more Super Bowls than every franchise in the NFL history isn’t the most amazing individual statistic in sports, what is?
Simone Biles was banned from doing moves bc they couldn’t score them fairly and bc they were too dangerous for other gymnasts to attempt
A screenshot of the tweet shared by “Epic Theater Company” on Facebook was shared another several thousand times:
Pearson’s tweet attracted significant engagement, with hundreds of thousands of “likes,” and thousands of retweets. She did not include a link to substantiate the claim.
Simone Giles’ official webpage offered further information about her remarkable athletic career:
- Olympic Gold medalist in vault, floor, Individual and Team all-around, Bronze medalist on Beam at 2016 Rio Olympics
- Won the all-around by a 2.1 margin of victory, larger than the margins of victory from 1980-2012 combined
- First woman gymnast to win three consecutive World all-around titles
- Most World Championship gold medals won by a female gymnast in history (10)
- Most decorated World Championship American gymnast with 14 total medals (10 gold, two silver, two bronze)
- First woman to capture four gold medals at a single World Championships (2014 & 2015) since the Soviet Union’s Ludmilla Tourischeva in 1974
- First female African-American all-around world champion
- Undefeated in the all-around competition since 2013
- First American woman in 23 years to win three all-around national titles
- Honored as the 2014 Women’s Sports Foundation’s “Sportswoman of the Year”
- Named Olympic Athlete of the Year by the USOC 2015
- Named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year 2016
- L’Equipe Championne des championnes monde 2016
- Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports ‘Favorite Newcomer’ Award 2016
- BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year 2016
- Glamour’s ‘The Record Breaker’ Woman of the Year 2016
- One of the Most Influential People in the World list by TIME magazine
- Shorty Award recipient for Best in Sports
An October 2019 opinion piece in USA Today explains how gymnastics is evolving, with Biles at the very forefront of the changes:
Every element in gymnastics is assigned a letter, which corresponds to a numerical value. An “A” skill is worth a tenth of a point, and every letter in the alphabet that follows is an additional tenth. So a “D” skill is four-tenths of a point while the rare “J” skill is worth a full point.
Biles is doing two new skills at worlds: a triple-twisting, double somersault on floor exercise and a double-twisting, double somersault dismount off balance beam. The triple-double was valued as a J skill, while the double-double was only deemed to be an H.
That editorial went on to argue that existing scoring mechanisms should allow for nuanced scores while preserving genuinely extraordinary performances:
There’s no shortage of hypocrisy in that rationale. If the federation is so concerned with athlete safety, why allow I and J skills in the first place? If Biles’ double-double is going to encourage gymnasts to take risks they shouldn’t, wouldn’t her triple-double do the same?
The great irony in all of this is that Biles is decidedly prudent when it comes to increasing her difficulty.
The new skills she’s doing at worlds are ones she “played around with” long before she considered putting them in a routine. Even once she warmed to the idea, it took months, sometimes years, for her to decide the skill was ready to be done in competition.
The letter designations rely on the gymnastics Code of Points, which standardizes scoring. According to the website “The Evolution of Gymnastics,” the Code of Points is “like a gymnastics bible,” providing comprehensive standards by which athletic performance is graded and judged. A value of “H” is mentioned twice in passing:
Each skill in a gymnast’s routine is valued from A to H (so far). A valued skills are the easiest and rarely receive any bonus unless connected to another skill or set of skills. An example of an A valued skill is a back tuck, while an example of an H valued skill is a double twisting double tuck. This system is designed to give the most bonus for the hardest skills. Some skills are valued lower than their difficulty such as a dismount off the beam that is similar to a Tsukahara vault, which is only valued as a C, primarily to discourage people from competing them. In this system, as gymnasts accomplish greater difficulty, they are able to add letters and to convey increased difficulty. Also, athletes get bonus connection points from connecting skills. For example, a half pirouette connected directly to an overshoot that goes to handstand will rake in 2 tenths in bonus. Bonus is like a reward to gymnasts for competing hard skills and connections.
Original reporting on Biles’ novel accomplishments in 2019 appeared largely confined to editorials about Biles’ performance and the fairness of scoring. An October 13 2019 CNN article explained the controversy in the course of a larger op-ed:
Biles’s triple double (three twists, two flips, aka Biles II) on floor was passed by the governing body of world gymnastics as a J value skill – the highest degree of difficulty – without question, but the double double (two twists, two flips) dismount from beam was quickly reduced to an H.
Out of context, the two letter values seem minor – the J is worth a full point of difficulty, while the H carries 0.8 – but in fact symbolize a gulf of difficulty: on Twitter, a fan pointed out that Biles’ new skill was now only worth 0.1 points more than the commonly performed full-in (double tuck with a full twist). In a sport where the margin of victory is often razor-thin, the designation of difficulty carries enormous weight. In 2017, when Morgan Hurd, an underdog as a new competitor at the senior level, won the all-around title at World Championships, her victory was a mere 0.1 in front of Canadian Ellie Black.
The women’s technical committee of the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), the sport’s governing body, said the downgrade in difficulty is to prevent gymnasts – predominantly from countries looking to break through on the world stage – from attempting the risky skill to bolster their score. “In assigning values to the new elements, the WTC (women’s technical committee) takes into consideration many different aspects; the risk, the safety of the gymnasts and the technical direction of the discipline,” they said in a statement. This is commonly seen with performances of the Produnova vault (front handspring onto the table, two front somersaults off), the hardest in gymnastics, known for its deadly potential:a slightly skewed run and launch can mean landing squarely on the neck. “I’m not trying to die,” Biles told the New Yorker when asked if she was going to attempt it.
In conclusion, the writer asked:
But at a deeper level, FIG’s treatment of Biles prompts a more existential question for the future of gymnastics and women’s sports. If the best in the world isn’t rewarded for her innovation in the sport, then who is?
An October 4 2019 ESPN article (“Gymnastics body says risk affected Simone Biles’ dismount grading”) provided a still more technical accounting of the controversy, including USA Gymnastics’ objection to the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique’s explanation:
USA Gymnastics said in a statement [on October 4 2019 that] it “respectfully disagrees” with the FIG ruling.
“The safety of athletes is always a top priority for us and the sport in general, however we believe the skill should be given the value that it merits,” it said.
“Simone is an amazing gymnast who continues to develop and challenge the norm with creative and technical ability and skill, and we applaud and support her efforts.”
On October 1 2019, Biles tweeted about the controversy:
hahahaHAHAHAHAHhahaHahaAhahAhahahaAhahahHAHAahaaaaaaaHa bullshit https://t.co/NAnzBlfh8c
— Simone Biles (@Simone_Biles) October 1, 2019
A viral post claimed that “Simone Biles was banned from doing moves bc they couldn’t score them fairly and bc they were too dangerous for other gymnasts to attempt,” and some readers reacted by claiming Biles had not been “banned from” doing moves. The tweet referenced an October 2019 controversy in which Biles’ novel and extraordinary performance was “underscored” due to the difficulty level of elements she successfully executed. The governing body defended its decision by saying that a higher score would encourage other gymnasts to attempt increasingly risky maneuvers. Although Biles was not “banned” per se, the claim was closer to true than not true; therefore, we have rated it Decontextualized.