Her exit has triggered a debate, along with comparisons with an ankle injury that Strug herself suffered in 1996.
“Sending love to you,” wrote Strug in a tweet on Tuesday, tagging Biles.
“Team UNITED States of America,” the 43-year-old former gymnast added, along with a heart and goat emoji, a reference to Biles earning the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) moniker.
The support from Strug is also relevant because Biles’s ankle injury in the Tokyo Olympics has been compared to the injury that Strug herself sustained during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
Strug broke her ankle on the vault, but continued to perform a second vault after her injury. The vault helped Team USA win its first-ever team gold medal in women’s gymnastics.
The performance by Strug, however, is now being perceived differently after Biles’s exit because it has underscored the considerable pressure women gymnasts face while performing at national and international competitions like the Olympics.
In a Facebook post by Byron Heath that has gone viral, it is said that Strug had reportedly raised doubts after her first vault to her coach Bela Karolyi, who apparently urged her to continue with the second performance despite being injured.
“In fact, we now know that Strug’s vault wasn’t even necessary to clinch the gold; the US already had an insurmountable lead. Nevertheless, Bela Karolyi told her to vault again according to his own recounting of their conversation,” the post said.
Biles earlier this week announced that she was taking herself out of the team finals after a botched vault in the first rotation and an ankle injury.
The 24-year-old, who had been chasing an unprecedented six gold medals in Tokyo, left the floor shortly afterwards with the US team’s medical trainer, but later came back and stayed on to cheer for her team.
She later told media that she was prioritising her mental health. “There is still more to life than gymnastics,” she said on Tuesday.
Since then, several athletes and prominent personalities including Michelle Obama have expressed support for her decision. Strug’s tweet also received responses from people who called both women “iconic” for their respective decisions.
“Kerri Strug played through the pain and won gold. Simone Biles knew her limits, accepted them and was still there to cheer on her teammates. They’re both iconic, and they should be celebrated accordingly,” Tim Gross, a sports journalist and Twitter user, wrote.
Another user Michelle wrote: “Would love love LOVE to see you make a statement telling all these people to stop comparing Simone to your 1996 injured vault. People are using what you went through to tear Simone down and I don’t think you are in support of that at all.”
While Strug was full of praise for Biles, she also gave a shoutout to the entire women’s team for the silver medal. “Congrats #teamusa,” Strug wrote. “Great respect for all your hard work and support for each other. We are proud of you!”
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