Simone Biles on Conquering Doubt and Finding Love

*Olympian Simone Biles covers the Wall Street Journal’s July digital issue!

Per press release, the wide-ranging profile explores how the most powerful woman in gymnastics has survived abuse, endured a harrowing family ordeal, and overcome self-doubt to get to Tokyo, and found love along the way. The profile includes candid interviews with Simone, her mother Nellie, and her coach Cecile Landi.

“I feel like for all these years I’ve kind of let gymnastics do the talking, and I’ve kind of stamped my position there,” said Biles on her place in gymnastics. “So at the end of the day, I can say I’ve done it all, and more.”

The beautiful cover and accompanying images were shot by Rahim Fortune with styling by Jessica Willis. Check out excerpts from the interview below, and read the full conversation here.

Biles on her remarkable rise:

“I wouldn’t say I thought ’13 was a fluke. But I was like, ‘Oh, whatever, I won; next year somebody else will be the winner.’ And then ’14 happened and I won, and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh; what is happening?’ And then ’15 happened, and I was like, ‘Who am I? This could be really good. I could make the Olympic team!’”

Biles on worries she may have peaked in 2016:

“In 2016, I thought I’d hit the peak of my career, and I was like, ‘How can I get any better than that?’” Biles says. “And so I was really nervous walking into the gym,” consoling herself with the idea that 10 or 15 years later, she’d want to know she’d given it a shot.  When she came back, she picked new coaches.

Biles on how she feels about performing gymnastics now:

“Now I can enjoy my gymnastics. It’s really up to me,” she says. “And that probably also comes along with how many titles I’ve won and everything I’ve established. It’s like, OK, well, the facts are on the paper. I feel like now I don’t have to prove anything to anybody…. I’m trying to level up.”

Biles on continuing to speak out about the abuse she and her fellow gymnasts endured:

“In 2018 I kind of realized, ‘Wow, I’m one of the only remaining survivors in the sport,’” she says. “They can’t brush that under the rug, and they can’t stop talking about it.”

Biles on her new boyfriend:

As the pandemic began, she started a new relationship with NFL player Jonathan Owens after spotting him online and sending a direct message.

“He would say I slid into his DMs. I saw him and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s pretty cute,’ so I said hi…and then I saw that he was in the Houston area, so we started chatting a little bit, and then we went to hang out a week or two later.”

After about three weeks of watching the two flirt, Biles’s sister Adria grabbed her phone while she and Owens were FaceTiming and asked if he was going to join a planned trip to a lake house. He came with his dog, an English bulldog, Zeus, who got on with Biles’s French bulldog, Lilo (Biles added Rambo, another French bulldog, to the mix during the pandemic). As fears of the virus eased and warmer weather came, the Bileses’ Sunday-evening dinners resumed, in person and outdoors. Owens was invited to join.

Biles on her activism and deciding when to use her voice:

“We can have a voice for things that we believe in, rather than just focus on the court, focus in the gym. We’re human too.”

“Everybody expects me to speak out, but I kind of do it whenever I’m ready, in a good mental place, because it is a lot at the end of the day, and it does spark a very big conversation,” she says.


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