Simone Biles hints at return to elite gymnastics

Star gymnast Simone Biles, whose expected dominance at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics was disrupted by mental health issues and has not competed since then, could be planning a comeback a year before the Paris Games.

Biles, 26, is listed among the participants in the US Classic, which is scheduled for August 5 near Chicago and is a practice event for the national gymnastics championships to be held August 24-27 in San Jose, California.

His entrance was without much fanfare; It is uncertain whether she can recapture the form that earned Biles four Olympic gold medals and seven medals overall, including the all-around title at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016.

Many in the sport have wondered whether Biles will retire from competition after the Tokyo Games, where she withdrew from most events due to a mental breakdown and began her life outside gymnastics. After years of trying to meet expectations and please the public, she was eager to start a new chapter. This spring, she married Jonathan Owens, the defensive back of the Green Bay Packers.

But other gymnastics experts suspect Biles may at least try to return to competing in the vault, which in some cases requires less training time than other events. Her entry into the US Classic may indicate that Biles feels she can still be a force to be reckoned with in national and international gymnastics, even though USA Gymnastics said that registering for the event “does not guarantee participation”. “

Biles’ inclusion on the participant list, alongside past champions and current contenders, doesn’t firmly declare her intention to compete in Paris, but it does make it a possibility. His coaches – Laurent and Cécile Landy – are French, and he has previously said it would be an honor for him to win a medal in his home country.

“We are not commenting on his return to the US Classic except that we are very excited for him and we are taking it one day at a time,” Cecil Landy said in a text message. “No pressure. Just enjoying the experience!”

In Tokyo, Biles was expected to win at least three individual events while attempting to become the first female gymnast in more than half a century to repeat as all-around Olympic champion. She was promoted as perhaps the most anticipated star of those Games, but she was under an enormous amount of pressure before going into the event. At the time, she was still dealing with the shock of being one of the survivors of the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the sport.

Biles was one of hundreds of gymnasts and other athletes who were treated by former national team doctor Lawrence G. Nassar had made the victim. He and others publicly criticized USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee for doing so in violation of the sport’s conventions that encourage athletes to remain sober during competition. Shortly after the Tokyo Games, she was also among the gymnasts who testified to Congress about the FBI’s gross mishandling of the case.

Once the Tokyo Games began, the stress of it all caused her to lose her ability to determine her spatial awareness in the air, a potentially dangerous condition known in gymnastics as “twisties”.

She withdrew from the team final and did not compete in the individual all-around competition. Biles said at the time that she was trembling and unable to blink, describing herself as not being in the proper “head space” to continue and concerned about injuring herself. “It’s useless when you’re fighting with your own mind,” he said.

However, she persevered, and on the final day of the gymnastics competition in Tokyo, Biles held her composure and won a bronze medal on balance beam with a modified routine. She said at the time, “I wasn’t expecting to come away with a medal.” “I was just going to do it for myself.” “Having another opportunity to be at the Olympics means a lot to me,” she added.

While Biles faced some criticism for withdrawing from several events in Tokyo, she was widely embraced for her candor in discussing her mental health and acknowledging her vulnerability.

Along with other athletes such as swimmer Michael Phelps, tennis player Naomi Osaka, figure skater Gracie Gould and basketball players DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love, Biles defied a long tradition of indifference in sports and publicly represented a cultural shift in desire. Did. Speak up about anxiety, depression and stress.

Sian L. Beilock, then president of Barnard College in New York (and now president of Dartmouth), a cognitive scientist who studies athletes, businessmen and students and why they succumb to pressure, observed Biles during the Tokyo Games. Said of: “I appreciate the fact that she was able to recognize that her mental state was not right and she stepped back. What a tough job to do. There was a lot of pressure to keep going. And she found the strength to say, ‘No, that’s not right.’

The willingness of Biles and others to speak out reaffirms that mental health issues affect everyone, Beilock said.

Juliet McCur Contributed reporting.

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