Simone Biles: I wasn’t emotionally ready to face Larry Nassar again
Simone Biles didn’t ever appear nervous on her way to winning four gold medals at the 2016 Olympics.
But the gymnast said she didn’t attend Larry Nassar’s sentencing because she wasn’t emotionally prepared to face her abuser again.
“I don’t think I was emotionally ready for that, to go see him again, because I don’t know, that would just not be good,” Biles told CNN on Wednesday. “I think emotionally I decided that because I need to be in a good place, especially in my gymnastics, because most of the girls might not return to gymnastics, (whereas) me, I’m still in training and I’m back.”
“If I went there I think it would take me back, and I’m trying to move forward,” she added.
The interview with CNN came amid a day of press for Biles, who spoke about Nassar publicly for the first time Wednesday morning on NBC’s “Today” show.
Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics, admitted in an Ingham County, Michigan, court that he used his position of power to sexually abuse young girls under the guise of medical treatment. More than 150 women, including Biles’ Olympic teammate Aly Raisman, spoke in court against Nassar in what became a reckoning with more than two decades of abuse.
Biles posted a powerful note about Nassar’s abuse to Twitter two weeks ago, but she said she has still had trouble speaking publicly about Nassar.
“It’s been very difficult and I have a very difficult time talking about it still, so I’ll go see someone to get that out of the way and do what I need to do to better me,” she said.
She said it was good to see the support from her family, friends and fans, and she lauded the broader #MeToo movement of women coming forward with their own stories of sexual harassment and assault.
“I think it’s very inspiring and very empowering, especially for other girls who have gone through these situations, to realize it’s not the end of the world if you speak out and there will be people in your corner supporting you no matter what.”
Biles said there should be a full investigation into who knew what and when at USA Gymnastics, and she said the resignation of the entire USA Gymnastics board on Wednesday was a good start.
“I think if they didn’t resign, there wouldn’t be change, and I think change needs to happen,” she said. “I think there just needs to be further investigation to see why this happened for so long and why this was able to (happen), so I think starting fresh is a good start.”
Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison last week, and he also was sentenced to 60 years for federal child pornography charges earlier in a separate case. He is in court on Wednesday in Eaton County, Michigan, to face dozens more of his victims.
Never too early for training
On the “Today” show earlier Wednesday, Biles talked about how she was able to win at the 2016 Olympics, even while dealing with abuse from Nassar.
“I think we’re very good at compartmentalizing things, and so we just kind of push it in the back of our heads because we don’t want anyone to think of that or we don’t want ourselves to think of that,” Biles said.
“So once we go out there, we go out with full heart and compete, because that’s what we love to do, and represent our country.”
Biles, 20, told CNN she is back in the gym training with her sights set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“I don’t think it’s ever too early to start training, because you need as much training time as you can get,” she said.
Despite her busy training schedule, Biles said she finds time to take an education strategies class through the online school University of the People. In addition, a Lifetime movie based on her life, “The Simone Biles Story: Courage to Soar,” will premiere on Saturday.
The movie follows her made-for-TV life, struggles and all. Biles spent much of her childhood in foster care before her grandparents adopted her and her sister, but all the while she excelled at gymnastics.
“I’ve always said I wish I could have, like, an out-of-body experience and see my life the way it is that other people could see it, because to me it’s normal, so I’m excited,” she said of the movie.
She’ll also be checking in on the Winter Olympics, which begin next week. She said she’s particularly excited to see figure skater Nathan Chen and skier Lindsey Vonn. Her advice to them? Stay true to your training and enjoy the ride.
“I would say my advice for any of the Winter Olympians is to do what you do in training, because obviously it’s paid off to get you to where you are, so don’t change anything.”