Gym­nast Si­mone Biles is back on top

Gym­nas­tics cham­pion Si­mone Biles re­claims her throne af­ter a two-year break and a shock­ing rev­e­la­tion

DRUM - - Contents - COM­PILED BY LAV­ERN DE VRIES SOURCES: THE­GUARDIAN.COM, BBC.COM, TIME.COM, HOUSTONCHR­ONICLE.COM, ELLE.COM

SHE’S the golden girl of Amer­i­can gym­nas­tics. Her Olympic de­but at the 2016 Sum­mer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, saw her walk away with four gold medals – in the in­di­vid­ual all-around, team all-around, vault and floor – and a bronze in the bal­ance beam. At 19 Si­mone Biles had ce­mented her Olympic legacy – and made her mark in a sport that lacks racial di­ver­sity. The tum­bling pow­er­house was the one to watch, pun­dits said. But fans were sur­prised when she took a post-Olympic break, opt­ing not to com­pete last year. Had she burnt out, they won­dered?

Then in Jan­uary this year Biles dropped a bomb­shell. “I am not afraid to tell my story any­more,” she said in a state­ment posted on­line. What she tweeted next ex­plained her ab­sence. “I too am one of the many sur­vivors that was sex­u­ally abused by Larry Nas­sar.”

Nas­sar (55), a for­mer USA Gym­nas­tics team physi­cian, sent the Amer­i­can gym­nas­tic world into a spin when more than 140 women and girls ac­cused him of sex­u­ally abus­ing them un­der the guise of med­i­cal treat­ment.

In Fe­bru­ary the dis­graced doc­tor was sen­tenced to be­tween 40 to 175 years in prison for sex­ual abuse that spanned decades. Many of his vic­tims are strug­gling to deal with the trauma, and fans had feared Si­mone’s ca­reer would take a tum­ble too.

Turns out they had noth­ing to worry about.

BILES is back with a bang. The 21-year-old re­cently be­came the first woman to win five na­tional all-around ti­tles at the US Gym­nas­tics Na­tional Cham­pi­onships in over 50 years. The last ath­lete to achieve this feat was Clara Schroth-Lo­mady, who won six be­tween 1945 and 1952.

But Biles didn’t just make his­tory – she also brought her own brand of black girl magic. The gym­nast made her triumphant re­turn to the top in a teal leo­tard.

“I picked [the leo­tard] out in Jan­uary. It’s for the sur­vivors. I stand with all of them,” the gym­nast told USA To­day.

Biles’ USA team­mate, McKayla Maroney (22), has filed a law­suit against USA Gym­nas­tics al­leg­ing of­fi­cials paid her to sign a con­fi­den­tial fi­nan­cial set­tle­ment to re­main silent on the abuse she suf­fered at Nas­sar’s hands.

Biles has made no se­cret about how her team­mates in­spire her. “Af­ter hear­ing the brave sto­ries of my friends and other sur­vivors, I know that this hor­rific ex­pe­ri­ence does not de­fine me,” she wrote in her Jan­uary post. “I am much more than this. I am unique, smart, tal­ented, mo­ti­vated, and pas­sion­ate. I have promised my­self that my story will be much greater than this. I love this sport too much and I have never been a quit­ter. I won’t let one man, and the oth­ers that en­abled him, to steal my love and joy.”

Amer­i­can gym­nast Si­mone Biles made a state­ment when she re­turned to the sport in a teal leo­tard (LEFT) – the colour for sur­vivors of sex­ual abuse.

For­mer USA gym­nas­tics team doc­tor Larry Nas­sar will serve be­tween 40 and 175 years in jail for sex­ual abuse. Dur­ing her break from com­pet­ing, Si­mone took part in Danc­ing with the Stars USA. She also spent time with her fam­ily (LEFT) and her boyfriend (ABOVE LEFT), for­mer Univer­sity of Michi­gan gym­nast Stacy Ervin.

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