Tokyo, Jul 24 (EFE).- To the casual observer of the Rio Olympics in 2016, America’s most decorated gymnast Simone Biles looked to be living the dream.
Five years later, as she prepares to take the spotlight in Tokyo 2020, she has shown the world that not only is she one of the greatest athletes of all time, but that the road has not been easy.
Biles was born in Colombus, Ohio in 1997, and her mother then reportedly struggled with addiction, so at the age of six, Biles was adopted by her maternal grandparents. At 16, she shot to fame, winning two World Championship golds, including the all-around title.
The gymnast, who looked to have reached the pinnacle of her career with five medals at Rio 2016, has revolutionized her sport with maneuvers never performed, for which she has won all possible top medals, except in the uneven bar, which has eluded her.
At the end of the Rio Games, Biles took a year’s sabbatical, in which she frequented red carpets and television studios.
In January 2018, she joined other gymnasts to denounce the abuses of American team doctor Larry Nassar, now imprisoned for life, and revealed she too was a survivor.
“Most of you know me as a happy, giggly and energetic girl. But lately… I’ve felt a bit broken and the more I try to shut off the voice in my head the louder it screams. I’m not afraid to tell my story anymore,” Biles wrote in a statement.
“I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar,” she added.
“As I work towards my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020 I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused.”
Since then, Biles has been breathing down the neck of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, both of which she has accused of wanting to sweep the scandal under the rug and failing to facilitate an independent investigation.
The young gymnast’s commitment was also transferred to other causes, such as feminism and racial equality. She endorsed Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and displayed outrage after the January assault on Congress.
Meanwhile, Biles parted with Aimee Boormann, her coach from ages seven to 18, and began working with Frenchman Laurent Landi. In July 2018, she returned to competition at the US Classic, in which she achieved the top score (58.700).
The notion that great champions only compete against themselves is, in Biles’ case, true. Unrivaled for years, upon returning from her sabbatical, she decided to reinvent her sport.
Footage of her training sessions, in which she rehearsed elements that were previously either unknown or only practiced by men, glimpsed new heights that she later presented in competition.
First it was the double back-flip with triple twist in the floor exercise. Then the double-double dismount from the balance beam. She then reached the Yurchenko double pike vault. And, finally, six spins on the beam.
Since the Rio Games, Biles has participated in two world championships, in 2018 and 2019, in which she won nine gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
On Saturday she will take the spotlight at Tokyo 2020 in the qualifying round by countries. There, she must win in order to reach all of the finals.
If she wins the overall individual gold in Tokyo, Biles will be only the third woman to achieve the feat twice in a row, after the Soviet Larisa Latynina (1956 and 1960) and the Czech Vera Caslavska (1964 and 1968). EFE