article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)
You’ve surely heard about it by now, and likely seen it too – U.S. gymnast phenomenon Simone Biles easily captured individual all-around gold at the Rio Olympics Thursday by out-performing the best of the world’s best and fulfilling what many felt was her long-awaited destiny. Teammate Aly Raisman won the silver and Russian gymnast Aliya Mustafina took the bronze, repeating her finish in London four years ago. It was the second time the U.S. women went 1-2 in the all-around, having also done so in 2008.
But what I find to be challenging about the major media coverage of Biles beyond the footage of her feats (which I could watch all day every day) is how much it focuses primarily on three things: 1)her “humble beginnings” family story 2)how “girly” she is and 3) how she is preternaturally genetically gifted for the sport she so clearly dominates. If you need to see examples of any or all of this, simply turn on NBC to catch whatever package is running on her as they show the gymnastics competitions (I’ve personally seen the footage of her at the nail salon three separate times), go to nbcolympics.com, read pretty much any major newspaper’s feature on her (many with some tagline about what a “giant” the 4′ 8″ teen is), or heck, just click through the internet.
In addition to hearing about her once-in-a-generation, God-given talent or her twitter crush on Zac Efron, can’t we please hear, see, read and learn more about how Biles’ team crafts her routines to capitalize on her strengths? Or how exactly did she and/or her coaches come up with her signature move for the floor routine – the Biles? (Okay, I just found that one – it’s on inc.com – a business site!).
If I Google and scour a bit, I do find what I want – coverage of Biles’ discipline, work ethic and what kind of discrimination, if any, she faces as a black gymnast in a predominately white sport – like this very strong piece published in deadspin.com. I do believe, however, this should be the standard of mainstream media coverage on a sports superstar of Biles’ caliber, particularly from the official network covering the Olympics she is currently crushing. (Yes, it’s cute to see her dance to “Uptown Funk” with Hoda and reveal her and her teammates’ Kellogg’s cereal box on “The Today Show”, but c’mon Peacock – there is so much more to this athlete!)
Hopefully this weekend during the broadcast of the individual skills events, NBC will step it up – way up – because Biles surely will, and she deserves nothing but the best as she gives us all her best.