Simone Biles, back to where it all began

Nina Derwael chats to Simone Biles on married life, sporting accomplishments, and what it means to her to be back in Antwerp 10 years after her first world titles.

Nina- Well, first of all, I would really like to congratulate you because you got married.

Simone- Yes, I did. Thank you.

Nina- How is married life?

Simone- I mean, right now, we’re actually long distance. He plays in the NFL so he’s currently in Green Bay and I’m in Houston. It’s been fun for the week we were together and married. Now it’s long distance so it’s a bit tough, but it’s ok.

Nina- I can understand. How does it feel to be back in Antwerp?

Simone- I don’t know. I think it feels surreal. It’s full circle because obviously the World Championships were here 10 years ago, which were my very first one. So now, it’s just really exciting because I get to see some people that were at 2013 which is absolutely crazy and insane. But to be back in the same arena, in the same atmosphere, I think it will be really fun and wild.

Nina- Yeah, it sounds crazy. I couldn’t even imagine. What do you remember most about the championships in 2013?

Simone- Oh my goodness. I remember being absolutely petrified because it was my very first worlds, it was my very first senior elite year. Márta [Károlyi] told me ‘Just go out there and have fun, there are no expectations’ and I thought ‘Oh ok, yeah, you’re right’ but I was just super terrified. I wish I could remember more but I feel like it’s a blur. I remember the crowd was very active and engaging.

Nina- Well I was in the audience watching you at your very first championships.

Simone- Oh really!

Nina- It’s so exciting because I hadn’t heard anything about you and you just came out and you totally killed it.

Simone- Thank you.

Nina- It was such an amazing thing to see. We have prepared a little clip for you to watch. It´s about 2013, so just press play.

Simone- Oh lord, the throwbacks. I had braces!

Nina- Well you were 16.

Simone- Yes I was 16. I wanted those braces off so bad before I came. Oh my gosh. I feel like not much has changed, it´s crazy. Is this the all-around? Because it was an individual event?

Nina- The pink leotard was for the all-around. I can remember because whole podium was pink!

Simone- Yeah. This was an individual worlds.

Nina- Yes, it was not a team competition.

Simone- Oh my gosh. I was terrified because I knew there were Olympians and world champions there. That’s crazy.

Nina- And then you left being World all-around champion!

Simone- Yes, and I was not expecting that at all.

Nina- No, not at all?

Simone- No, I had no idea.

Nina- You had no idea?

Simone- No idea.

Nina- I can’t imagine that you had no idea. You had to know that it could to be a possibility?

Simone- No, I really didn’t know how I would rank. Kyla [Ross], she was my biggest idol at that time and my mentor. So I was just following her. Then when I saw that score I said ´I won? That can’t be right!`. I thought it was going to be Kyla. I didn’t think I was going to even end up in top 6. I just had no idea.

Nina- That’s so crazy to hear. Well, you did a post on social media saying ‘Going back to where is all began’. Is that really what you feel that Antwerp represents to you?

Simone- Yes, because that was the kick off of my elite career and Antwerp gave me all the confidence I needed going forward. When I came in 2013 I was a nobody, nobody had really heard of me and all of that stuff. I didn’t have a name. So after that, I really believed in my gymnastics. I had confidence in my gymnastics a lot more after I left being a world champion. I thought ok, maybe I can hang with the bigger girls and the older girls and maybe one day I can go to an Olympics.

Nina- I think you clearly showed everyone who were after Antwerp.

Simone- Thank you.

Nina- What do you recall most about Antwerp aside from gymnastics? The chocolate? The waffles?

Simone- Back then it was a little bit more strict so we weren’t allowed to eat that stuff, but I do remember after worlds my mum gave me these earrings and I’ve been wearing them for 10 years. They are the first ones.

Nina- She bought them here?

Simone- Yes, she bought them in Antwerp.

Nina- That’s so nice.

Simone- After I won she said ‘here you go’. For a while I was scared to wear them because they were so expensive, but now, it’s been almost 10 years that I’ve been wearing them.

Nina- That’s so crazy. That’s a really fun story.

Simone- I know. I’m exited to shop for more diamonds.

Nina- Well, you’ve won a lot of medals and a lot of titles in a lot of different cities. Does Antwerp take a special place on that list for you?

Simone- I think so. Only because it’s the first. Whenever it’s your first, it will always be more memorable than some of the other meets or medals that you have. So I would say, yes, I will never forget it. I am actually happy that it’s here again, we get to come back and we get to have a little bit more fun.

Nina- That’s so nice to hear. If you compare the Simone in 2013 to the Simone now, what would you say has changed the most?

Simone- I was really stubborn back then so I would say I’m not as stubborn. I still feel like not much has changed but the age. I figured a lot more would change. I feel that obviously I’m a lot more mature, I’m married now and all of that stuff, but gymnastics is the same, I still love it just as much. Not too much has changed. But I feel like I look a lot different!

Nina- Do you take a different approach to how you prepare?

Simone- I think so because back then I wasn’t a professional just yet… or was i? When did I even go pro? Oh gosh it’s been so long. Yeah, 2015 I went pro. So now I’m a professional I think it’s a little bit different. But, my goal is still to go out there have fun, inspire the kids and lead a team.

Nina- That’s nice to hear. It’s the 6th time that you will perform in a world championships. That’s something no other American gymnast has ever done. How do you feel about that?

Simone- I thought that was a crazy stat. It’s so weird because the further into gymnastics I keep going, I keep breaking all these records, more stats. So it is kind of wild. I guess it’s because they use to hold them every 4 years, like the Olympics, and now they have them every year. It’s pretty crazy but hopefully it inspires the other girls and they have more longevity in their careers. Before you hoped to go to one, maybe two, and now a couple of our girls have been to two or more.

Nina- It’s crazy to see how the sport has developed and how the older gymnasts still compete.

Simone- Yes, I know. We used to be like ‘Oh my goodness Oksana [Chusovitina]’ and now we’re all getting up there! Yeah maybe it’s time for us to go...

Nina- Before it was like ‘You’re already 25!’ or ‘You’re still competing!’ but now it’s getting normal.

Simone- Yeah it’s getting normal.

Nina- I like that.

Simone- I think it’s nice.

Nina- How do you look back on these last 10 years? From now all the way back to 2013. What was the evolution of Simone?

Simone- I wouldn’t change a thing. Every year I feel like I’ve gotten a little bit better and the teams grew stronger. Mentally and physically. I think even now, 2023, the team we have is really strong and hopefully we’re all confident in our gymnastics. It is crazy to see the evolution because most of the time as an athlete you only hope to stay on top for so many years. I’ve been able to do that with the help of my coaches, trainers, doctors, parents, all of the support system. It’s pretty wild… I never thought that my senior elite career would go on for 10 years!

Nina- Yeah, I can imagine. I’m really exited to see you back in Antwerp. I will be cheering you on from the stands once again, unfortunately for me! But I wish you all the best and thank you very much for this interview.

Simone- Of course. Thank you so much.