Simone Biles could have retired on top — four gold medals in Rio to cap perhaps the most dominant Olympic cycle in history. Her reasoning for returning to the gym after a one-year break was part unfinished business, part why not.
Start with her only misstep in Rio. Biles bobbled on a front tuck in the balance beam final, forcing her to grab the apparatus with both hands to keep from falling off altogether. The mistake cost her a full point. She missed gold by .733 of a point, but still took bronze.
“Besides messing up on beam at the Olympics, the one reason I would want to try and come back is that, years from now, 20 years from now … I never want to think back and say, ‘Wow, I wish I would’ve tried,'” Biles said in a USA Gymnastics video early in 2018, before her return meet that spring. That latter thought echoed Michael Phelps, who said he unretired in 2013 because he didn’t want “any what-ifs.”
Biles’ Rio Olympic individual apparatus finals — including golds on floor exercise and vault — are featured in NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week programming on Sunday. A full schedule is here.
Before the Rio Games, Biles talked openly about ending her gymnastics career at those Olympics.
At one point, “I didn’t think she was going to come back,” after Rio, then-coach Aimee Boorman said last year, “because she was saying she didn’t want to come back.”
Biles remembered, too.
“Yes and no,” she said last year. “I really did in that moment feel like I was going to be done, but there was a slight chance that I would want to come back. Everyone’s like, oh, you’re going to come back, and I feel like I fought it more.”
When Biles did decide to make a second Olympic run, she laid out a timeline: take a full year off after Rio before returning to the gym. By then, Boorman had moved from Texas to Florida. Biles, wanting to stay at her family’s gym near her native Houston, took on new coaches: Cecile and Laurent Landi, who had guided Madison Kocian to uneven bars silver in Rio.
“I never said, oh, take a year and then we’ll see, or maybe I need two years,” she said. “It was always just, I’m going to take one year, rest the body, physically, mentally from gymnastics and then get back into it.”
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