Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles is no stranger to criticism. After walking away from the 2016 Rio Olympics as the greatest gymnast of all time, the 20-year-old was subjected to negative remarks that ran the gamut from name-calling to body-shaming. So it's no surprise that she decided to take the past year off, claiming to spend the time focusing on herself before returning to the mat. (Related: Simone Biles Isn't Ashamed of Her ADHD and We Love Her For It.)
"It's important to have a mental and physical break," Biles told Fitness. "You need to find your balance again; your center. Everyone thinks, "'Oh, the Olympics, you start training for it that year,' but I've been training my whole entire life and I think people tend to forget that."
And while Biles has always had a great support system in her family and teammates, she says she's keenly aware of the fact that not every young athlete can say the same. That's why she's decided to partner with Target and Always as a spokesperson for Girls on the Run, a nonprofit that helps young girls find confidence and learn life skills through running.
Photo: Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images
"I think what they're offering is so important; [helping girls] get leadership skills as well as experience with teamwork," she said. "I am who I am today because of sports. It has shaped me; taught me to become a leader and how to have confidence. So I think sports and overall being physically active is very important for young girls."
It's that love for sports that motivates Biles to get back to the mat herself. She now has her eyes set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, for which she'll start officially training for in November under new coach Laurent Landi. "Laurent specializes in bar work, and out of all my events, bar is a little weaker than the rest of them," she says. "[So] hopefully I get a little bit better and my confidence while performing a bar routine goes up."
Here's hoping the next few years fly by so we can watch Biles dominate once more—and hopefully see more gold medals get draped around her neck.