American gymnast Simone Biles’s life has been a whirlwind since she won four gold medals, including the individual all-around, at the Rio Olympics in August. The 19-year-old put the finishing touches on her autobiography, “Courage to Soar,” which will be released next week, and has been traveling the country as part of the 36-city Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions.
“It’s been crazy,” Biles said Wednesday, the day before she was set to perform at Verizon Center with her U.S. gymnastics teammates from Rio, 2008 individual all-around gold medalist Nastia Liukin, 2008 balance beam gold medalist Shawn Johnson and other gymnastics greats. “I’m always busy. If I’m not busy, I’m trying to find time to sleep somewhere, but everything has been so amazing. We’ve gotten to do so many cool opportunities, so it’s really fun.”
The two-month tour concludes Sunday in Boston, after which Biles said she’ll take “maybe a year off” before resuming her training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There, she’ll look to become the first gymnast to repeat as the champion in the women’s individual all-around since Vera Caslavska did so for the former Czechoslovakia in 1968.
While traveling from city to city, Biles tried to find time to reflect on everything that she accomplished in Rio, where she set an American women’s gymnastics record for most gold medals in a single Olympics.
“I was thinking about it last night, actually trying to force myself to relive those memories because it hasn’t quite hit me yet, and usually after [world championships] it hits me like a month later, or two weeks, and it still hasn’t,” Biles said.
Looking ahead to 2020, is there room for Biles to improve?
“I think anyone can get better, as long as you put your mind to it,” she said. “You set new goals, so I don’t know if I can, but I hope I can.”
One of the most rewarding parts of the tour, Biles said, is meeting young gymnasts. On Wednesday, she visited the Barcroft Sports & Fitness Center in Arlington.
“It’s so much fun every time we get to do meet-and-greets, or go to gym visits,” Biles said. “They’re all just super excited and happy for you, and they just want to be just like you, so it’s nice to share a piece of advice and give them a good outlook because you were them one time.”
Biles never received a visit from an Olympic gold medalist when she was an aspiring gymnast, but she has fond memories of seeing Liukin and Johnson perform as part of the Kellogg’s Tour of Champions in 2008.
“I actually bought a Nastia Liukin T-shirt,” Biles said. “While we were on tour, I was like, ‘You know I have one of your T-shirts from a tour I saw when I was younger that inspired me?’ So now it’s weird, eight years later, I’m on tour with her, but it’s also like anything can happen, so I hope little girls can see that.”