Rejecting The Win-At-All-Costs Culture Is Better Than Gold

Rejecting The Win-At-All-Costs Culture Is Better Than Gold

I must admit gymnastics has always been my favorite Olympic event to watch, and as someone who truly believes in sport as a vehicle for social change I was so happy to not only see the amazing performances this week, but to see how the sport invigorated the talk around mental health in our country.

When I heard how Simone Biles decided not to compete in the women's individual all-around gymnastics final so she could focus on her mental health, I thought, now that is leadership. 

Biles is the most decorated American gymnast with a combined total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals. Millions of young girls were watching her this week, and she didn't let them down. She told them it's okay to take a break, and choose yourself, even when the entire world is watching.

The news also made me immediately think of the documentary "Athlete A." "Athlete A" is the name USA Gymnastics used to refer to Maggie Nichols, the first gymnast to report Larry Nasar's sexual abuse. Another example of leadership.

In the documentary, it takes us back to 1996 when Kerri Strug performed a vault on a broken ankle so the USA could win gold. Jennifer Sey, a producer of the film and former USA Gymnastics national champion questioned why we celebrated winning when Strug was visibly in horrible pain.

I was 10-years-old and remember watching Strug live on television. Twenty-five years later,  I do think "winning" takes sacrifice, I just wonder should we also question how much sacrifice and who we let define "winning" in our lives?

I see it not only in sports but in business. It seems it is never about people, but always about medals and money.

Do you think society in general needs to redefine what we consider winning? I do, and I think Biles is very wise for only 24.

"The outpouring of love and support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before," Biles wrote on social media.

For me, it wasn't until I was well into my 30s that I stopped defying myself by my accomplishments, and I started defying myself by my values, which enabled me to also look at others for their values. Because to me that is what is the most important. Not their job, their education, their looks, or their accomplishments.

We can't expect athletes to just perform, and I'm glad they don't. Because as Nelson Mandela once said, "Sport has the power to change the world."

Biles isn't just the most decorated American gymnast, she's a true hero. She rejected the win-at-all-costs culture this week in Tokyo, not for just herself, but for her country, and all the little girls watching. I personally think that is better than gold, it's priceless.


Jackie Faye is the founder of One January. The ethical apparel company makes activewear from recycled plastic. For every $1 they make, they donate $1 to give sports opportunities to women in war. She is also the first woman to do six IRONMANs on six continents within one year and trained Afghanistan first triathletes.