Simone Biles: ‘I go to therapy, because at times I didn’t want to set foot in the gym’

The world’s best gymnast on disgraced US team doctor Larry Nassar, her year out and Tokyo 2020

Simone Biles, four-times world champion, winner of three individual Olympic gold medals and arguably one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, is 4ft 8in, but this is not how she appears when in flight. In the hangar-like space of the World Champions Center, a gym complex in a suburb of Houston, Texas, she stands at the end of a padded runway. All morning, Biles has been hanging out with squad gymnasts, some as young as six, who are already training full-time at the facility and are so accustomed to seeing Biles, says her mother, they barely look twice. (Occasionally, says Biles, “We’ll have a new kid come in and just stare. Other than that, it’s normal.”) For her part, Biles trains with the off?hand style of the preternaturally talented, that almost louche kind of grace you see in top tennis players knocking up or sprinters stretching before a race, and behind which lies extraordinary powers. And then she starts running.

Last year, Biles returned to gymnastics after 12 months off and she is still adjusting to the demands of her schedule. After the training session, we sit in the office that overlooks the vast floor of the gym, Biles with a tracksuit thrown over her leotard, and talk about what it is like to be 21 and at the top of her game, the pressures of being the best in the world and just how Biles knows where she is when she’s airborne.

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