Swan song? Biles prepares for another Olympic race
SPRING, TX (AP) – Simone Biles jumps into a chair and lets out a small sigh.
“Another 12 weeks,” says the greatest gymnast of her generation and any other with a hint of nostalgia.
Not 12 weeks before the start of the Tokyo Olympics. But until they’re done.
Do not mistake yourself. This summer, the 24-year-old has every intention of becoming the first woman to renew the title of Olympic champion in more than half a century. Slide, push and pull your sport into the future. Use her ever-expanding platform to advocate for real and substantial change within USA Gymnastics as it attempts to emerge from the rubble of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal.
Again. Biles is tired. The five years since her turn to glory in Rio de Janeiro – when she won four gold medals and five in all – have taken their toll. In his mind. On his mind. And definitely on his big toes, which stay in his “broken” words.
She needs a break. Probably a long one. Maybe permanent.
“She is ready for the next phase,” said Cécile Landi, who, along with her husband Laurent, has been Biles’ coach since fall 2017.
For now, history awaits us.
Biles will be on the competition floor for the first time in over 18 months on Saturday night at the US Classic in Indianapolis. The encounter marks the start of a frantic stretch in which Biles will stand in the center of a burning spotlight of his own creation, not only as the face of gymnastics, but of the entire U.S. Olympic movement and possibly be of the Tokyo Games themselves.
Yes, that’s his megawatt smile featured at the end of almost every NBC Olympic promotion. The image and its omnipresence at first caught her off guard. She even scared him. No more.
Maybe because she sees it as part of the outside noise that she did her best to mute it.
She did not ask to be immersed in three different social movements at the same time. It happened anyway. Three years ago, she introduced herself as one of hundreds of young women abused by Nassar – a long-time doctor on the US gymnastics team – under the guise of medical treatment. As a leading black athlete, she found herself trying to find a way to use her platform to speak out against social injustice. As a woman, she’s increasingly focused on aligning with entities that make empowering other women a priority, one of the driving forces behind her recent decision to leave Nike for Athleta.
“It’s a little scary sometimes to have this power in my hands because I didn’t ask for it,” she said. “So I also get used to that and I have to be careful what I say because I know the impact I can have.”
It takes discipline. There are times when she finds herself with her phone in her hands, her emotions run high and an improvised message is typed.
Thank you my god for the delete button.
“Because since I’m very blunt, I have to say it in a way that’s going to make it sound not as hard,” Biles said.
Everything that emerges, she stressed, must remain authentic. Yes, she is aware that she has become a brand of sorts. Still, there is something refreshingly unassuming about his worldview, even if it comes at a cost.
“She’s under close scrutiny for everything she says, everything she does, everything she wears, everything that comes out of her mouth,” her mother Nellie Biles said. “I mean, it’s a tough world to go through because you are being judged and everyone is judging you on who they think you represent.”
So Biles does his best to lead by example, an influencer in the original sense. This includes trying to push the sport she has dedicated her life to into a new, more balanced era.
Biles is one of the few still in competition who remained from the reign of former national team coordinator Martha Karolyi. The stiff and at times abrasive Karolyi oversaw USA Gymnastics’ rise to a global power, one in which the athletes were largely helpless soldiers. The system based on silence and obedience paved the way for wonders like Biles to become champions. It also allowed Nassar’s predatory behavior to run unchecked.
USA Gymnastics is still trying to find a way forward, with more than a little help from Biles. She expressed her frustration in 2018 at having to train at Karolyi Ranch, the site of some of Nassar’s abuse. Soon after, USA Gymnastics withdrew an agreement to take over the facility. Later that year, Biles berated then-President Kerry Perry for his ineffectiveness. A month later, Perry quit under pressure. Perry’s successor, Mary Bono, lasted less than a week after Biles questioned an Instagram post in which Bono challenged black athletes who chose to protest police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.
While the arrival of Li Li Leung in the spring of 2019 has brought some stability, Biles will go to work for a national governing body for which his feelings remain complex.
“It’s difficult,” she said. “Especially when you have so many pent up emotions because of what I’ve been through. … I block, I will represent the gymnasium, represent the country. This is the last thing I think about.
The first thing on his mind? Do what she does better than anyone on the planet.
Biles hasn’t spent the past five years riding. She spent it pushing herself and doing gymnastics in places she felt she couldn’t go. She made the sport’s code of points her personal memory. She has items named after her at multiple events, with possibly another on the safe looming.
Laurent Landi believes that Biles is “very close to his full potential”.
Which was really the point of it all. Why she chose – on her own terms, she insists – to return to the gym in late 2017. Why she stayed a year after the 2020 Olympics were postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s in a leotard with the world watching where she’s most comfortable. Doing the things that only she can do, impressing her peers while trying to silence her inner critic in the process.
Still, she knows she can’t just go out there and “just” win. She’s been doing this for eight years. She needs to show off like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt during their unprecedented Olympic careers.
In some ways, Biles understands that she is a victim of her own brilliance. At the same time, ask her which Rio medal means the most and she brings up the bronze she won on the balance beam when she bent down to grab the 4 inch slab of wood in the middle of her. routine. It probably cost him a piece of silver.
“People were really upset,” Biles said. “Guys it’s always a medal for the country and it’s still a medal for me, and if anyone else wanted to get bronze they would have applauded but it was Simone so they were like , pissed off.
Still, there’s a reason the couches in his office at the sprawling World Champions Center in the northern suburbs of Houston are golden, after all.
This is the standard she has set for herself. A standard that only she can touch. A standard that she adopts not out of habit or duty, but by choice.
“I want to do this and no one is forcing me,” she said. “Now it’s just for me.”
Enjoy the show. As long as it lasts.
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