The world isn’t ready for Simone’s message

I’m nearly twice as old as Simone Biles. It’s taken me almost all of those years to be anywhere near as brave as she is, to put up my hand and say ‘enough!’ when my job threatened my physical and mental health.

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August 3, 2021 - 9:37 AM

USA's Simone Biles. On Tuesday, Biles won the bronze medal in the balance beam competition, despite a week of incredible pressure from both herself and an international audience.

When Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympic women’s gymnastics team final last week because of her mental health, I couldn’t help but think of another Olympian — Canadian sports legend Hayley Wickenheiser — and what happens when culture tries to eat champions for breakfast.

Wickenheiser is a five-time Olympic medalist — four golds, one silver — in women’s hockey. As a trailblazer in a male-dominated sport, she knows something about challenging stereotypes and changing culture. Several years ago, in a career full of surprises, she unleashed the biggest one of all: She went to medical school.

When I interviewed her earlier this year, Wickenheiser had keen observations about the similarities and differences between medicine and Olympic sport … and how odd it is that any pursuit would equate “excellence” with personal self-destruction. One particular story stuck out.

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