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Ozark gymnast explains pressure for perfection after Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic team finals

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 5:58 PM CDT
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OZARK, Mo. (KY3) - Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympic team finals on Tuesday, saying the pressure to perform got to her. The decision is something girls on gymnastics teams understand.

Courtney Woods feels pressure too as she plans for gymnastics beyond her hometown Missouri Valley Gymnastics gymn in Ozark.

“It’s definitely stressful trying to almost sell yourself to other colleges,” she says. “To have to be at that level and hit your peak at the right time. So that’s definitely stressful.”

Her skills have come with years of practice, but she says the mental blocks that come with seeking perfection in the sport can be harder to overcome.

“If you’re not mentally there, you’re not going to perform the way you want,” Woods, 17, says.

It’s something her coach knows all about. Debbie Ward has been training gymnasts with big dreams for 28 years. She’s the head coach and owner at Missouri Valley.

“There is a lot of pressure put on the girls,” she says.

It’s a side0-effect of a scoring system that requires perfection.

“Every toe that bends, ff you flex your foot, if your legs separate, [or] if you have one arm bent, that’s a tenth off every single score,” Ward says.

It’s something she has learned plays a major role in how she runs her gym. She always kept her eye on those struggling, stressed, or burning out.

“I try to tell my parents to let me be the one that puts pressure on them, when they come home, please be the parent that they sit down on your lap if they need to cry,” Ward says.

The sport that makes spectators go “wow” is a mental game as much as a sport.

“It can make or break you,” Ward explains. “It really mentally can keep you from getting to a college.”

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