KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WATE) – Gymnasts training locally with hopes of someday making it to the Olympics, all eyes are on the 2020 Olympics at GymTek Academy, including the decision made by Simone Biles of ‘abandon the team final on Tuesday.
After Biles’ first rotation on vault in the team final, she sat on the sidelines due to a medical issue.
“No injury luckily, and that’s why I took a step back because I didn’t want to do something stupid there and hurt myself. So, I thought it was better for these girls to take over and do the rest of the work, which they absolutely did. They are now Olympic silver medalists and they should be really proud of them for how they did in the last minute, ”Biles said at a press conference after the USA team won the money.
Matt Henry, head coach and owner of GymTek Academy, said the Olympics were very important to his sport, so of course he was watching Biles compete.
“This is literally our Superbowl,” said Henry.
Henry said gymnastics is not often in the spotlight, although the university is starting to become more popular on the big screen. So, as a coach of future Olympic hopefuls, he has to be careful what the competition is doing.
“We’re watching the Olympics this year, we already have the new rulebook for the next one, what we call, the quadrennium, which is the next four years. So we take this rulebook and take a look at the trends over the last eight years and kind of try to predict the future a little bit and see where gymnastics might go, ”Henry said.
With sport not being in the spotlight that often, Henry said most people don’t see all of the work that goes on between big competitions. He said gymnastics continues year round, in addition to gymnasts spending more than 25 hours training per week.
“It’s intimidating and it’s a lot, and you know, you’ve got a athlete here who made the national team here in the US so he’s had a really long season this year. We started competing in December and we didn’t stop until June of this year, ”said Henry.
Henry said that is why physical and mental breaks are part of the program.
He said what gymnasts go through during the Olympics is 10 times more stressful than what they experience at local competitions.
“Even more for athletes like Simone. The whole world is watching. Every person’s eyes are on you, that kind of pressure that we can’t really replicate. We as coaches try to do the best job we can, ”said Henry.
Henry said they could never really replicate a competition like National Championships, World Championships and the Olympics.
Jed Blanton, assistant professor of sports psychology at the University of Tennessee, said the mind cannot be separated from the body and athletes need to be aware of it.
“We’re trying to look at interventions, words, activities, practice regimes that are framed by psychology or that can cause that person to have a useful performance response,” Blanton said.
Blanton said pressure competition is similar to excitement for a fan, but it makes more sense and can impact them more if not mentally prepared.
He said the psychological disturbance could be worse for an athlete than the physical disturbance of the crowd. So he’s trying to train his athletes on, basically, how to get into better headspace.
“The functioning brain can only carry four bits of information at a time, so it can only focus on four new things at a time. And if any of those things is what “might happen, and what might happen,” now I’m 50 percent of the brainpower to do what I’m supposed to do now, “Blanton said.
Blanton said for Biles, from what he could tell from the interviews he watched, he doesn’t think she’s not used to the kind of pressure from the Olympics because she’s the champion. in the world since 2013.
He said he thought she couldn’t get the “what ifs” out of her head.
“It’s one thing when she’s at the gym with her and her trainer, and she’s on the vault and she’s on the floor, and of course, she’s thinking about the consequences. What she is doing is incredibly dangerous. But, she’s focused on doing it right. On the world stage, not only the “I might get hurt” consequences, but “what will happen to my referrals, what are the little girls looking at me (thinking), what are the trolls on my Twitter handle gonna say, ”Blanton said.
He said that all of this going through someone’s head, as well as doing flips and turns, can be overwhelming.
Henry said it was extremely important to be in the right free space for a gymnast, as losing your train of thought mid-spin in the air can be very dangerous.
“No matter what stage you find yourself on, the Olympics are not worth injuring or fatally injuring you and some of the skills it does is very possible,” said Henry.
Henry, as a gymnast and coach, said he knew immediately when Biles made a mistake on the vault. Because of this, he could tell something was wrong.
He said his students learned many lessons from the Olympics, but what Biles did as he walked away is what he often tries to teach his students.
” You are going to fall. You’re going to ruin everything, and even the best in the world are going to ruin and it’s good. But it’s what you do after the fact that creates a champion and makes you great, ”said Henry.