Biles’ year has twists and sur­pris­ing turns

Houston Chronicle - - SPORTS - By David Bar­ron

For Si­mone Biles, 2018 started with an unimag­in­able de­gree of emo­tional trauma. It ended, at least on the com­pet­i­tive side, with un­fore­seen phys­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties.

In be­tween, Biles ac­com­plished things that out­strip the imag­i­na­tion and the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of any­one in her sport — a fifth na­tional cham­pi­onship, a fourth world all-around ti­tle and records for world cham­pi­onship gold medals and for to­tal world medals by a fe­male gym­nast.

Along the way, she also raised her voice on her own be­half and on be­half of her fel­low ath­letes, past and present, on the re­spon­si­bil­ity that those run­ning the sport owe the gym­nasts who par­tic­i­pate and com­pete.

And now, the 21-year-old Spring res­i­dent is go­ing on va­ca­tion.

“This year has been a whirl­wind,” Biles said Fri­day. “But it taught me a lot about my­self and who I am.

“It was a strange year, but a good one, A lot of eye-open­ing events, a lot of adult­ing, but it’s a learn­ing process, and it’s worked out for the best. I’m happy.”

Biles’ year be­gan with the rev­e­la­tion in Jan­uary that she was among the hun­dreds of gym­nasts who were abused un­der the guise of med­i­cal care by im­pris­oned sports doc­tor Larry Nas­sar.

She said she con­tin­ues to un­dergo coun­sel­ing as she copes with the af­ter­math of the Nas­sar scan­dal that af­fected dozens of her friends and peers and ap­par­ently will re­sult in the end of USA Gym­nas­tics as the sport’s na­tional gov­ern­ing body.

“Ev­ery­body heals dif­fer­ently,” she said. “My timetable is dif­fer­ent than oth­ers. I try not to fo­cus on it too much. I’m oc­cu­pied with a lot, which gets my mind off it, and that’s good.”

Biles also has joined the cho­rus of ath­letes call­ing for change within the sport that will, at the be­hest of the U.S. Olympic Com­mit­tee, be forth­com­ing in the new year.

How­ever, she shuns the no­tion that she is the most pow­er­ful per­son in the sport, as some have sug­gested, and thus should be in

the fore­front of help­ing to de­cide how gym­nas­tics should be re­or­ga­nized.

“As long as it’s in a pos­i­tive man­ner, I don’t mind try­ing to speak up and say­ing what is right,” Biles said. “Ob­vi­ously, we have to pro­tect the girls and the team and all that, and you have to pro­tect your­self.

“I wish they wouldn’t try to carry it all on me. That is not my job. That is their job to do. It sucks that you have to put all the power into one per­son for the peo­ple of author­ity to hear or listen.”

Kid­ney stone still an is­sue

As for Biles’ agenda the rest of this year, at the top of the list is rid­ding her­self, hope­fully soon, of the 9-mil­lime­ter kid­ney stone that showed up prior to the world cham­pi­onships in Doha, Qatar.

Biles con­tin­ued to com­pete de­spite the pain and dis­com­fort and won four gold medals and six over­all, be­com­ing the first fe­male gym­nast to medal in each world event in 31 years.

“I prob­a­bly was de­hy­drated,” she said. “I’m a healthy 21-yearold, so it kind of shocked ev­ery­one. But it just hap­pens some­times.”

The stone con­tin­ues to work its way through Biles’ sys­tem, and she plans a re­turn visit to a lo­cal doc­tor in a cou­ple of weeks to de­ter­mine what mea­sures will be re­quired if she is un­able to pass it on her own.

Also on her agenda af­ter va­ca­tion

is a Dec. 2 event to gather toys for needy chil­dren and to pro­mote an up­com­ing in­vi­ta­tional meet at the Biles fam­ily gym, World Cham­pi­ons Cen­tre.

She also will con­tinue train­ing through the end of the year and into next spring in prepa­ra­tion for the 2019 sea­son, which will be­gin with an ex­hi­bi­tion meet in March in London.

Not as strong as be­fore?

The world, mean­while, is watch­ing. Even though she swept through the re­cent world cham­pi­onships with four gold medals, a first-time sil­ver on un­even bars and a bronze on bal­ance beam, she did have two falls in event fi­nals.

Those slips ap­par­ently have given hope to the likes of Valentina Ro­di­o­nenko, the coach of the Russian gym­nas­tics team, who ac­cord­ing to news ac­counts this week doesn’t con­sider Biles un­beat­able.

“We saw Si­mone Biles at the world cham­pi­onship and re­al­ized that she could make er­rors. She is not that strong as she used to be be­fore,” Ro­di­o­nenko said, ac­cord­ing to the web­site RT.com.

Biles’ re­ply on Fri­day: “Maybe right now I’m not men­tally as strong as I was, but phys­i­cally — def­i­nitely there. Still work­ing on the men­tal part, but phys­i­cally stronger.”

Marie D. De Jesús / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Fresh from pick­ing up six medals — four gold — at the world cham­pi­onships in Doha, Qatar, gym­nast Si­mone Biles is back in Spring work­ing on her bal­ance beam rou­tine Fri­day at the World Cham­pi­ons Cen­tre.

Marie D. De Jesús / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

De­spite train­ing Fri­day at World Cham­pi­ons Cen­tre, Si­mone Biles is tak­ing time off fol­low­ing a whirl­wind year of ac­tiv­ity.

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