Culture / Sporting Life

Simone Biles Surprises Herself In Paris Olympics Buildup — Bringing Back the Joy As a New Type of Revolutionary Role Model

In Talking So Openly About Therapy's Impact On Making Her Comeback Happy, This GOAT Extends a Hand to So Many Others

BY // 06.04.24

After falling on a vault with a degree of difficulty that no other US Olympic gymnast would even attempt, Simone Biles is hardly bummed. Instead, she shakes the momentary stumble tumble off quicker than even an old time cartoon character recovers from a fall. “I’m not mad,” Biles mouths for the NBC cameras.

Why should she be?

Biles is back dominating with the Paris Olympics looming, showing the world the power of therapy — and being open about it — with every flip and breathtaking floor routine. She wins the U.S. Championships in Fort Worth by a commanding 5.900 points, the equivalent of taking a football game by 35 points. More importantly, Biles shows a real sense of joy. Of being in the moment and refusing to put extra pressure on herself.

If this is Simone Biles in this Olympic summer, it’s going to be beyond a memorable swan song for the greatest gymnast of all time. It’s going to be a lesson in making the moment yours rather than letting the moment control you. Biles is taking all the pressure of being a seven-time Olympic medalist, the consensus GOAT on a Michael Jordan/Wayne Gretzky level, the biggest star of the Paris buildup. . . and not letting it weigh her down.

“Everyone says I look like I’m having fun,” Biles tells the NBC cameras in Cowtown. “When I’m not stressing or having anxiety, I do feel like I’m having fun.”

Biles is showing everyone that is OK to admit when you are stressing or feeling major anxiety. That seems to be hitting home with even fellow Olympic gymnasts like Suni Lee. Simone Biles is making the world of high-end gymnastics a safer and healthier place. That’s no small addition to her already immense legacy.

She comforts and gets Lee back into the meet after Lee has a frightening tumble on the vault. She cheers on Jordan Chiles, whose parents cutely wear matching “Jordan Chiles Is That Girl” T-shirts. She pumps up Skye Blakely, the 19-year-old from nearby Frisco who finishes second at these U.S. Championships, showing so much promise.

It’s a tour de force in being the supportive teammate that everyone needs.

“I’m kind of a veteran,” Biles says, her trademark smile showing a trace of mischievousness. “It’s not my first time out there.”

Simone Biles first pitch Astros
Simone Biles once pulled off the greatest first pitch in baseball history thanks to her twisting back flip. (@DTGoteraKHOU)

This is the 27-year-old Biles’ ninth U.S. Championships overall title. She also wins individual titles in all four events — uneven bars, floor exercise, balance beam and vault in Fort Worth. No other United States gymnast is close to her, which becomes more and more apparent as the other potential members of the U.S. Olympic team seem to experience misstep after misstep.

Simone Biles will need to be a next level leader for this U.S. Team to do big things in Paris. She’s already displayed an even more important type of leadership, opening up a pathway for more people to talk about mental health. When Biles stepped away during the Tokyo Olympics while dealing with a bad case of the twisties and a death in her family, she pushed aside the demands of the Olympic machine and all the expectations with remarkable courage.

She showed a different way. Sure some ignorant people mocked Biles’ choice. Others brought up on the never-give-in ethos that sports often lean on simply couldn’t understand. But Biles reached so many more, many who no doubt found strength in her example. She is a new type of role model now, serving as an example to kids in a way that goes far beyond anything she does on a gymnastics mat. In so openly talking about how therapy helps her, how it changed her life, Simone Biles opens the doors for so many more to seek it out.

Maybe someone else will realize that it’s all right to step away — from a job, from school, from seemingly crushing obligations — to deal with a mental health crisis through Biles’ strength. In many ways, that would be as great a legacy as the four gold medals Biles won in Rio. It already trumps anything she can do in Paris.

“Everyone says I look like I’m having fun. When I’m not stressing or having anxiety, I do feel like I’m having fun.” — Simone Biles

Simone Biles, Husband Jonathan Owens and a Spring Thing

Now Biles is back, with her parents and her husband Jonathan Owens, the Houston Texan turned Chicago Bears safety and special teams player, watching in the stands. All of Spring is along for the ride as usual. But Biles is no longer unsure. She’s stronger than ever, encouraging people to lean on her now.

It’s not a traditional sports comeback. It’s more remarkable than that.

“Today, it’s just getting out here, getting comfortable and confident with my gymnastics hopefully going to Olympic Trials and making that next step towards Paris,” Biles says moments after her latest dominant performance. “I couldn’t be more proud of what I’m doing this time of the year, getting that confidence over and over again.

“Getting myself back in front of a crowd and doing what I do in practice.”

Simone Biles and her husband Jonathan Owens
Simone Biles and her husband Jonathan Owens

Stumbles do not knock back this 27-year-0ld Simone Biles. They make her stronger. She missteps on the balance beam to start the second day of competition at the U.S. Championships. Has to catch herself so doesn’t tumble right off the four inch-wide platform. It’s the very first thing she does with the whole world watching again. And it does not faze her.

Biles simply shrugs it off, completes the rest of her routine and rings up a high score. Former Olympic women’s gymnastic medalist turned NBC commentator Samantha Peszek marvels over Biles’ composure in that moment on air.

This is the therapy-reinforced Simone Biles. Still the best by a mile. But stronger than ever, a better teammate than ever. Someone to look up to in a whole new way. Biles has found the joy and left the stress behind.

Good luck to the rest of the world — and good riddance to anyone who still doesn’t get it . Biles is in full command of her own golden moments now. This is her time (again) in a whole different way.

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