Simone Biles talks Olympics, future, crazy vault plans and protest possibilities

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Henry Bushnell
·4 min read
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FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2019, file photo, Gold medalist Simone Biles of the United States performs on the floor in the women's apparatus finals at the Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Biles will headline a post-Olympic tour coming to more than 35 cities in late 2020. Biles said the all-female tour will be a mixture of gymnastics and entertainment and is designed to empower young athletes across the country. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
Simone Biles at the Gymnastics World Championships in October of 2019, her last major international meet. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Simone Biles arrives at practice every morning before 7 o'clock. She trains for three-and-a-half hours, then eats, showers and sleeps. Then trains again from 2 p.m. to 5. The Tokyo Olympics are a few months away, a year after they were a few months away, and Biles is gearing up once again.

On Wednesday, after that second practice, she spoke with reporters and outlined her plans for the coming months. She'll compete in her first all-around since the start of the pandemic at the U.S. Classic on May 21-22.

And she said she'll "definitely" debut the Yurchenko double pike – a ridiculously difficult, never-seen-before vault – sometime before the Olympics, at one of the three meets on her calendar between now and then.

"Just because we need to see, get out there, kinda control my adrenaline once I do that before the Olympics, so we can perfect it in competition," she said.

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Biles, the defending all-around gold medalist and favorite to win again, also hinted that the Tokyo Games, which begin on July 23, aren't necessarily the end of her gymnastics career. This fall, she'll embark on a 35-city tour. "And then afterwards, I'm not so sure," she said.

Her coaches, Cecile and Laurent Landi, are from France, the site of the 2024 Olympics.

"And so they've kind of guilted me into at least being a specialist and coming back," Biles said with a smile. "But the main goal is 2021 Olympics first, tour, and then we'll have to see."

Biles on finding her voice, protests, USA Gymnastics investigation

Biles has changed a lot over the five years since her last Olympics. She spoke about that, and a variety of other topics, at Wednesday's Team USA media event. "I'm not a little girl anymore," she said. "I feel like I've really found my voice, and kind of used that for good, in the world and on social media platforms."

She was asked about a new U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee policy that permits protests in support of racial and social justice at Team USA trials.

"I've thought about it a little bit," Biles said, "because as soon as they announced that, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, we could do so much with the [leotards] and kind of make a statement.'

"At the end of the day, a lot of people are like, 'Oh, you're an athlete.' But we're not just athletes, we're people, too. And we have a right to speak up for what we believe in."

Biles also reiterated her plea for an independent investigation into USA Gymnastics and its failures that enabled Larry Nassar.

"It is disheartening to know that that hasn't happened, and some of the survivors are still out there competing," Biles said. "And I feel like they just want to sweep it under the rug. But that's not how to go about it. In gymnastics, you get deductions for stepping out of the line. And they just get slaps on the wrist and keep going.

"There needs to be consequences for their actions. But I'm sure it's coming."

Biles' pandemic life

Biles cried when the 2020 Olympics were postponed. She was in between rotations at a morning practice. She received the news via text at her locker. She spent the next seven weeks in self-isolation, communicating with coaches via video call, working out at home.

Oh, and walking her dogs.

"I would take them on so many walks," she said. "I think they were so sick of me, because I was just bored."

"The one thing I learned about myself is I really can't sit still," she continued. "I have way too much energy. I couldn't sit through all of the Netflix shows. I was just so bored. So I would clean a lot." Tidying up her house, she said, became her "saving grace."

By mid-spring, she got back in the gym. But life was far from normal. She didn't see her parents for months.

A year later, whenever she sees the Olympics trending on social media, her heart drops. Uncertainty around the rescheduled Games still exists. But in a way, Biles said, the announcement that foreign spectators wouldn't be allowed in Tokyo actually eased her mind. She feels "very confident" that the Games will happen, safely. She, like most Team USA athletes, is planning to get vaccinated soon, "and I think it's good for athletes to become advocates for that," she said.

The downside of the ruling on foreign spectators, though, is that Biles' parents wouldn't be able to join her in Tokyo. "It was really saddening for them to hear the news," she said. She's "never not had family" at a big meet.

"So it'll definitely be different," Biles said. "I've already joked about how my mom's gonna try to get a credential, or be media, or something. She's gonna do something to be there."

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