Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles has been doing anything but taking it slow since her breakthrough success at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
From endorsement deals and red carpet appearances at A-list events to appearing on “Dancing with the Stars,” writing her biography, going on her first date and becoming a spokesperson for foster families, Biles continues to reach new heights.
She also continues to keep it honest. On Jan. 15, Biles came forward with her own account of sexual abuse by former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar, who may be sentenced for his crimes this week. On Twitter, Biles posted her #MeToo experience, joining more than 130 girls and women who have made similar claims in the case that has rocked the gymnastics world.
“Most of you know me as a happy, giggly, and energetic girl,” she wrote. “But lately, I’ve felt a bit broken. … I am not afraid to tell my story anymore.”
“It breaks my heart even more to think 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.”
Four days after she went public with her post, USA Gymnastics terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Tex., which has been a training site for U.S. women’s gymnastics since 2001.
Biles joins recent fellow Olympians Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber in sharing her story of abuse.
Looking forward, Biles has her upcoming biopic.
On Feb. 3, Biles’s inspiring story from foster care to Olympic star is coming to Lifetime. The movie is executive produced by Biles and based on her bestselling book,“Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance.”
“I hope it has a great outcome and whoever watches it can relate to some parts of it,” Biles says. “It’s really exciting but it doesn’t feel real because it’s going to be a movie about me.”
The movie explores the themes of sacrifice, family and the importance of self-confidence, says screenwriter Kelly Fullerton.
Fans know Biles spent her formative years giving up a high school and college experience to pursue gymnastics. But the film also offers a side to Biles the public hasn’t seen.
Newcomer Jeanté Godlock plays Biles in the movie, and says she has been a fan ever since the Rio games.
“What makes her so great is her support system and her family. I’m really excited for people to see that side of her and bring it to life,” Godlock says.
Born the third child of four to her biological mother who suffered from substance abuse, Biles, along with her younger sister, was officially adopted by her maternal grandfather and his wife when she was six.
Her parents are her “rocks,” Biles says. “I think since a young age my parents have given us all the things we needed to succeed in school and throughout anything else we decided to do. Knowledge, confidence, strength, really anything.”
Throughout her life, Biles has surrounded herself with a steadfast support system, including her former coach, Aimee Boorman, who said moving away from Biles felt like “being torn away from your child.”
“We had been a constant in each other’s lives for 12 years,” she wrote in an email.
“I think that Simone is one of the greatest of all time because of her natural ability. She doesn’t require a lot of work to be great, so when she’s focusing on her training, she can reach amazing heights — literally and figuratively,” Boorman says.
There’s little doubt that Biles has talent. But she also “draws the crowd in with her effervescent personality,” Boorman says.
In her book, Biles writes, “I loved the roar of a fully engaged audience, and the crowd in Brazil was one of the best.”
But when she’s training, Biles says she is very hard on herself.
“I become very emotional sometimes and very mean but toward myself,” she says.
So when Biles returned to the mat two months ago, she warned her boyfriend of four months, Stacey Ervin, who works at her parents’ renowned gym, that she will be a different person while she is training.
The couple met two years ago at a gymnastics meet but never spoke. After Ervin finished college in Michigan, he moved to Austin, Tex., and began texting Biles, who eventually invited him to the gym.
When she took a year off, she went on her first date with him.
Hitting milestones like her first date and puberty in the public eye is “very hard,” Biles says.
“To have a certain figure and then go through puberty with everyone watching,” she says, “it’s not that good of a time.”
That’s one of the reasons why Biles decided to become part of “Girls on the Run,” a nonprofit program that works to encourage healthy self image in young girls through running.
“It’s really important for little girls or young girls to gain confidence at a younger age so that they can carry it through when they’re older,” Biles says.
Growing up, Simone didn’t feel like she had role models of color in gymnastics to look up to with the exception of fellow gymnast, Mattie Larson.
“It’s a very special moment for me to be the face of, and for some of these young girls to look up to me, because when you’re growing up, you don’t see a lot of girls of color in sports,” she says. “So I think it’s really special that you have Serena Williams, me and other sport heroes dominating what they do because then younger girls of color realize they can do it too. And I think it’s kind of special when they find their role model and they look the same as them.”