Simone Biles Is Ready for Paris 'Redemption Tour' and Has a Message for Critics Who 'Want to See Us Fail'

Actually — you can call it a comeback

Published Time: 01.07.2024 - 09:31:05 Modified Time: 01.07.2024 - 09:31:05

Actually — you can call it a comeback.

“This is definitely our redemption tour. I feel like we all have more to give,” Simone Biles told reporters at a late-night press conference on Sunday, June 30, not long after being selected as part of the five-person women’s gymnastics team heading to the Paris Olympics next month.

Biles will compete alongside Suni Lee, Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles and Hezly Rivera.

Four of them, minus Rivera, were also all together at the Tokyo Games, in 2021, which saw them earn a team silver and five individual medals, including the all-around gold for Lee.

But their events were in some ways overshadowed by Biles’ struggles at the time: She suddenly withdrew from most of her events, citing her mental health and a case of the “twisties,” and her teammates had to step up, unexpectedly, in her absence.

On Sunday, Lee and Biles both brought up the idea of "redemption" in returning to another Olympics.

“We weren't under the best circumstances … but I feel like we have a lot of weight on our shoulders to go out there and prove that we're better athletes,” Biles said. “We're more mature, we're smarter, we're more consistent.”

“I know we're stronger than what we showed in Tokyo. So I think it has to be for us because it can't be for anybody else, ‘cause that’s not why we do it. We do it for ourselves and the love for the sport and the love for representing the U.S.,” she said. “So we're going to go out there and we're going to do our best.”

Biles addressed a range of other topics — how she defines her success, relishing the support of husband Jonathan Owens and what it feels like to age in a sport that has famously prioritized youth.

Now 27, Biles leads a generation of women who are pushing past that preconceived notion. And she’s ready to playfully admit when she was wrong.

Asked about her past dynamic on the 2016 team with then-captain Aly Raisman, who was 22, Biles quips now: “I definitely have to apologize to Aly calling her ‘grandma’ because, woo, I feel like I'm way older now than me calling her grandma when we were younger.”

“And it's what, 11 p.m.? So it's definitely past my bedtime — so I know Aly would be cracking up right now. But yeah, it is crazy. I'm a lot older, I'm more mature. What was the rest of the question? See, I'm forgetting!”

That led her to talk about how she approaches recovery now versus then.

“After Day 1 of trials, I was actually surprised I could walk. So I was like, ‘Woo, I'm actually not as sore, I'm not hurting. … Recovery, I just have to take a little bit more serious,” she said. “Back in Rio in 2016, I could do anything. I never needed tape, nothing. I was just like a little hamster on a wheel, always running.”

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After Tokyo, B -

iles took a lengthy break from competing. She credited her return to a slew of people: teammates, therapists, medical staff.

“It really does take a village. So I think we're just all in awe of what I'm doing and I feel like even for myself, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm still doing it. I'm still capable,’ " she said. "So let's go.”

Owens, whom she married in April 2023, will be by her side for part of Paris as well: The Chicago Bears “are actually granting him a couple days off from training camp, so he'll be there for just a short little time," she said.

Asked about his support, like his meme-able reactions to watching her during trials, she said, “I think it's super exciting that we get to be in each other's elements and supporting each other's dreams and goals."

"It’s these memories that we make that we'll never get back," she added, "so anytime we can show up for one another and support, we just get super excited because our schedules don't align that much.”

In a few weeks, the new gymnastics team will be preparing to travel to Paris. Their newcomer, Rivera, is just 16.

“We're definitely going to guide her through the ropes. We've been there before. We've done it. She's young. I mean — she can't even drive, should we teach her how to drive before she gets to Paris?” Biles joked. “Like jeez, she's so young.”

“She's so cute. She's so smart. She's beautiful,” Biles continued. “We're really proud of her for making this team and we're really excited to kind of show her the ropes and at least she doesn't have to do it alone.”

As for her own performances to come, Biles shrugged off the idea that whatever she pulls off in Paris is aimed at those viewers who saw her challenges in Tokyo and sneered.

“They'll still say like, ‘Oh my gosh, are you going to quit again, are you going to quit again?’ And if I did, what are you going to do about it? Tweet me some more? Like, I’ve already dealt with it for three years,” Biles said. “But yeah, they want to see us fail.”

That’s another lesson she’d learned: “They want to see the rise to success, and then as soon as you get it and do kind of take that and run with it and you start reigning for a really long time, they want to see the downfall, which is really unfortunate because sports hasn't seen athletes like we've seen before. So you really have to give them their flowers in the sport, because once they're gone you're going to miss them.”

As for what’s next? That question, the one everyone keeps asking, made Biles laugh when PEOPLE brought it up.

The answer: more gymnastics, of course.

“I feel like everybody wants to know what's next, but what's next is the Gold Over America Tour, in the fall. We’re really excited about it.”

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