Biles ready for Olympic-year debut in Everett
posted on 04/05/2016

© John Cheng

By Nick McCarvel

Right now Simone Biles’ favorite inspirational quote goes like this: “Confidence is something you create within yourself by believing who you are.”

Who Simone is to most people is a gymnast. But she’s also a sister, a daughter, a friend and – according to Simone herself – a really loud singer in the mornings. She blasts top 40 hits while she makes herself egg whites and an English muffin alone in the kitchen.

This week, Biles will begin her road to Rio and the 2016 Olympics in full at the Pacific Rim Championships presented by Hershey’s in Everett, Wash. She’s the three-time reigning World champion, far and away the favorite for the gold in Brazil, but she’s also human: A gold medal won’t be handed to her come this August, and she’s hyper aware of that.

“It’s my first time competing this year, so it’s very exciting,” Biles says of the Pacific Rims. “But it’s also stressful because it’s an Olympic year.”

Hence the quotes – a lot of them – which calm, motivate, assure and inspire her. Simone says she sometimes gets lost for hours online finding them, saving them and sharing with her thousands upon thousands of social media followers.

“Most of them I find on Pinterest. I’ll just go clicking around,” Biles tells USA Gymnastics in a recent phone interview. “The quotes just help me. I start the day and I look at a quote. I always like looking at them. They mean something to me. It’s something everyone can use.”

A Day with Simone
Simone is a morning person. She pops out of bed (literally) at 7:45am (“I’ve never hit snooze in my life. Ever.”) and checks her phone: Texts, emails, Snapchats. She brushes her teeth, showers and heads to the kitchen for aforementioned eggs – and singing.

“I say hi to the dogs and it’s just me and them,” Biles says of her family’s four German Shepherds, Maggie, Atlas, Lily and Bella.

Sometimes she’ll add fruit and oatmeal into the mix. Her 17-year-old sister, Adria, is already at school. Her parents give her the space to have mornings to herself.

“I like my alone time,” Biles explains. “No one talks to me. The dogs hang around. It’s my thing. My parents always hate me in the morning. [Laughs.] I’m loud! I’m a morning person!”

Lately, she has been loving Meghan Trainor and Alessia Cara, but mostly it’s “whatever is playing on the radio.”

“I’ll go crazy sometimes,” Simone laughs. But is she a good singer? “No comment.” More laughter.

Once her breakfast is complete (and vocal chords warmed up), Simone hops into the car and drives to the gym. It’s practice from 9 to noon, a break for lunch, then the gym again from 3 to 6. At night she takes Epsom salt baths. She hates the cold tubs and avoids them as much as possible.

© John Cheng

“There’s only a couple times I have to get in,” Biles says of ice baths that are so popular with athletes. She uses a NormaTec recovery suit to replenish her legs, then will perhaps ice her shoulders. But those ice baths…

“I avoid it,” she confirms again. “Epsom salt baths help me better. If I have to put my foot in for an ice bath, fine. Up to my belly button? No way!”

On a Mission
Simone knows she’s the favorite for the Olympics, but she’s not thinking too much about it. Why should she? She has her daily work to do for four months. And this weekend, she heads to Everett to begin her season in full.

It’s there that she’ll debut a new floor routine: “It’s Brazilian-themed,” she says. “I’m really excited about it.”

After winning a third consecutive all-around World Championship in Scotland last October (where she was also part of the gold medal U.S. team, as well as the balance beam and floor winner), Simone went back into the gym. She revamped said floor routine and spent her time with her team training, honing, perfecting.

“After Worlds, we got down time to work on skills in each event to get the consistency that we need,” Biles told a bevy of reporters on a recent media call. “It was good time to have the time off, focus on my second vault and the new floor routine. It was time for me to focus on my events. Mentally, I think I’ve been focusing on each and every skill, I’ve gotten better that way for sure. It’s been very productive.”

The focuses at Pacific Rims are that second vault and new floor routine, but it’ll more be a weekend for Biles to get her feet back under her in what will be the biggest year of her already-decorated competitive career.

The questions that come at her from the media are expected but repetitive: “How are you going to handle the pressure leading up to Rio?” “Is it hard to stay focused in the gym when you are doing so much outside of it with photoshoots and interviews?” “Are you going to try and emulate the success of the Fierce Five?”

Simone is as ready for the questions as she is in the gym.

“I’m trying to treat [this year] like every other year with a World Championships coming up,” she says. “I’ve never been to the Olympics so I don’t know what to expect. It helped me not to overthink anything when I went into my first Worlds. You can’t try to please other people. You have to put yourself first. You have to do what you have to do.”

Quiet Confidence
If Simone Biles wasn’t the best gymnast in the world, she’s pretty sure she’d be a freshman in college, doing her thing, living a normal life.

“I would definitely be trying to fight off that freshman 15,” Biles says, laughing. Ice cream and brownies are her weakness, “especially if you put them on a skillet,” she says.

She is not headed to class every morning and sleeping in a dorm bunk bed, but she still has nights with friends that are “normal” including dinners out (“I love Italian or Mexican!”) and heading back to her house, catching up and watching movies.

Right now, Biles is happy where she is. Gymnastics is what she’s doing, though she doesn’t see it as an end-all, be-all.

“I don’t think of it as a job,” she says. “We go to do what we’re supposed to do. We represent our country as best we can. It’s still pretty fun for me.”

How does Simone maintain her daily happiness?

“I’m in a good spot. I think it’s easy. It’s mainly fun,” she says. “Even if I’m having a bad day or I’m annoyed, the girls there... I love my teammates so much. We can make a joke out of anything. My downtime is nice for me to have… we are always joking about something.”

Sometimes fans tag her on quotes online, which she loves. She’ll favorite or re-tweet them. She is, after all, a teenager. She doesn’t see herself as superhuman.

“I’m normal,” Biles says. “I’m 19. I have emotional problems, too.”

And that’s where the quotes come in. They center her, much like her trips to Sunday church or quiet moments she has in prayer throughout the week, when she feels like she needs calming down.

“We have to embrace the moments we’re in rather than stressing on what’s later on,” Biles tells the reporters. “I like to focus on what happens next. On what’s in front of me.”

Is that a quote she found? Perhaps, or maybe it’s just Simone Biles, speaking her truth from the heart.

“Confidence is a big part of what you do in or out of the gym,” Biles says, going back to that favorite quote. “Even in gymnastics meets, cheering for my teammates… I just tell them, ‘Confidence!’ before they step on. You can do anything with it. It’s really helpful to have confidence. It’s key.”