Simone Biles vaulted into gymnastics history in her own distinctive way, using her national platform to send a message to those who, like her, are survivors of sexual abuse.
Biles won her fifth all-around title at the U.S. championships Sunday night in Boston and performed her routines while wearing a sparkly, light teal leotard she designed herself. Biles, who was one of more than 300 women who went public with sexual abuse by Dr. Larry Nassar, chose the color specifically long before the competition.
“[The color] is for the survivors,” Biles said (via the Associated Press). “I stand with all of them, and I think it’s kind of special to unite [people].”
Nassar can expect to spend the rest of his life in prison after being sentenced to concurrent 40-to-125-year and 40-to-175-year terms. Aly Raisman, Biles’s Olympics teammate, was among those who spoke eloquently during Nassar’s trial last winter, and although Biles did not attend his sentencing, she said she decided around that time to go with the teal leotard. Inspired in part by the #MeToo movement, “Go Teal” began at Michigan State, where the physician also formerly worked. Its purpose was to raise awareness about sexual abuse, show solidarity and encourage survivors to find the courage to speak up.
Biles, who won four gold medals in the Rio Olympics, edged Morgan Hurd, the world champion, by just more than six points (119.850 to 113.300) in the competition, becoming only the second woman to win nationals five times. The other, Clara Schroth Lomady, won six from 1945 to 1952. Biles also is the first woman since Dominique Dawes in 1994 to finish first on floor exercise, balance beam, vault and uneven parallel bars. Riley McCusker was third with 112.750 points. Biles took 14 months off after Rio and was in her second competition at nationals, with the worlds this fall in Qatar.
“I kind of thought I’d be a nervous wreck and maybe fall apart,” Biles said Friday. “Going into these events, I kept telling my family, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be able to calm myself down the way I did before and handle the nerves.’ But so far, so good.”
In January, Biles went public with her own story of abuse by Nassar. “Most of you know me as a happy, giggly, and energetic girl,” Biles tweeted. “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 am not afraid to tell my story anymore. I too am one of the many survivors that was sexually abused by Larry Nassar.”
Biles went on to say that the horrible abuse “does not define me. I am much more than this. I am unique, smart, talented, motivated, and passionate. I have promised myself that my story will be much greater than this.”
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