Heading into the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, all eyes will be laser focused on women’s gymnastics – for a variety of reasons. Following the conviction of a predator for sexual abuse, which then toppled an entire empire built on verbal and emotional trauma, many wondered which of America’s elite gymnasts had been victims, who would go quietly, who would speak out, and who would carry on.
Despite enduring some of the darkest days in the sport, Simone Biles continues to shine – both as a leader in competition, and as a leader among athletes.
Historically, coaching relationships in gymnastics were rarely described as “balanced” or “supportive.” But as Biles matured – both as a person and an athlete – she knew the same way of doing things was not going work anymore. Biles found a new coaching team and brought them to her home gym to coach all elite athletes training there. The new coaches – husband and wife duo Cecile and Laurent Landi – see value in the whole person, not just the athlete. They exist to be partners in the training journey, to understand the motivation and the struggle, to foster open communication, and be supportive as well as challenging – the same values that apply to every relationship. And it appears to be working, as Biles, after more than a year off, is training at a higher level than ever before and perfecting increasingly difficult skills.
On Using Her Voice
As more and more gymnasts came forward about the broad abuse within USA Gymnastics, some wondered about Biles, who was quiet for years. And then as the dust was settling, she spoke out, claiming her place among the abused, acknowledging her vulnerability, but also using her voice and example as one of leadership. There is perhaps no voice more relevant to the current world of gymnastics than hers, and when she chose to speak out, she reinforced for other gymnasts, athletes, and females that they, too, can be a voice for change.
PS – During the US Classic in May 2021, Biles landed an historic vault considered so risky no other woman has attempted it in competition. The judges refused to score the vault with a higher points value to discourage other women gymnasts from attempting it. Biles and her coaches disagree with the score.