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The case for Simone Biles’ athletic dominance was deemed airtight long ago with enough medals and titles, records and milestones, to fill volumes. She is, indisputably, the GOAT — insert all applicable emojis: the crowns, the praise hands, the wide-eyed awestruck face, and of course, the coded livestock itself.
Biles once again drew widespread acclaim at this weekend’s U.S. Gymnastics Championships, handily claiming the gold while performing two separate skills that no other woman had completed in competition: a double-double dismount from the balance beam and a triple-double — that’s three twists and two flips — in her floor routine. Her final score was five points more than the second-place finisher in a sport that regularly comes down to decimal points.
“Are you human?” Natalie Morales asked Biles last year on the Today Show, after she’d won the 2018 U.S. Gymnastics Championships. “I am human, but I get that question all the time,” Biles responded. She went on to win the 2018 Worlds a few months later while suffering from a kidney stone.
Biles is used to working through pain and not only because gymnastics is such a brutal sport. In early 2018, she shared that she too had been abused by Larry Nassar. “It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences,” she wrote. “I have promised myself that my story will be much greater than this and I promise all of you that I will never give up.”
On and off the mat, she’s kept that promise — continually defying not only the laws of physics but the laws of gymnastics, compelling institutional change via her platform as the most successful American gymnast in history — and the only Nassar survivor (of those who have shared their experience) still competing for Team USA. When Biles pointed to the hypocrisy of Karolyi Ranch, the site of so many of Nassar’s abuses, remaining open, it was closed three days later. When she called out USA Gymnastics president Mary Bono for taking a shot at Nike’s campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, Bono quit.
This year’s U.S. championships were no different. Biles opened up last Wednesday about what the past year has been like for her only to be called “angry” and “emotional.” Her commentary is worth reading and watching in full, if only as a reminder that of course Simone Biles is human — and she’s stretching the limits of what humans can do while suffering some of the deepest pain any human could face.
“You know, it’s not easy coming back to the sport and the organization that’s failed you. At this point, I just try to think I’m here as a professional athlete with my club team. It’s not easy being out here, because I feel like every day is a reminder of what I went through and what I’ve been through and what I’m going through and how I’ve come out of it. I try just not to think about it, but it is hard once you see that like, the FBI [agent who] was on [the case] like drank with [USAG president] Steve Penny. It’s like, did you guys really not like us that much that you couldn’t just…do your job? At the end of the day it’s really sad for us because it becomes a problem whenever we work with future people — how can we trust them? They bring in new people all the time and I automatically put my foot up, because the people that I’d known for years had failed us.
I don’t know, it’s hard to talk about. It’s really hard to talk about. I just feel like… I don’t mean to cry. [Biles starts crying.] It’s hard coming here for an organization, having had them fail us so many times. We had one goal, and we’ve done everything that they asked us for even when we didn’t want to, and they couldn’t do one damn job. You had one job, you literally had one job and you couldn’t protect us.
It’s just really sad because now every time I go to a doctor or training, I get worked on — and I don’t want to get worked on, but my body hurts, I’m 22 and at the end of the day that’s my fifth rotation and I have to go do therapy. But it’s just hard, and we try to work through it, but it’ll take some time. I’m strong, I’ll get through it, but it’s hard.”