Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles is speaking out about her return to the mat for the 2021 Games.
Glamour reports that Biles, in conversation with Today host Hoda Kotb, revealed that a large factor in her decision to compete had to do with her desire to represent other survivors of sexual assault and sexual abuse. You may recall Biles’ own experience with sexual abuse at the hands of former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar, an experience shared by the dozens of fellow gymnasts in the USAG. As of February of last year, Biles was still calling on USA Gymnastics and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) to open an independent investigation into Nassar’s wrongdoing.
Biles told Kotb: “I knew I had more to give to the sport for myself and I felt like I had a purpose. God called me. I just feel like [with] everything that happened, I just had to come back to the sport, to be a voice, to have change happen. I feel like, if there weren’t a remaining survivor in the sport, they would have just brushed it to the side. But since I’m still here and I have quite a social media presence and platform, they have to do something. So I feel like coming back, gymnastics just wasn’t the only purpose I was supposed to do.”
Biles has also been lending her support and voice to another worthy cause: the Black Lives Matter movement. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Biles explained that her initial hesitance to publicly show support for the cause in years prior had more to do with the possible opinions of gymnastics coach Marta Karolyi. Now, she realizes that using your voice for change, regardless of what anybody thinks, ultimately serves the greater good and for a larger purpose.
Now that I’ve kind of found my voice, I feel like not only can it benefit me, the team, and the people that are supporting and advocating for, but it kind of helps everybody and people get to see a little bit of who you are just besides an athlete and what you stand for.
She added in part, “So it’s been really exciting, but, it wasn’t easy to find my voice or to put it out there because it’s a little bit scary about what people are going to say. Because at the end of the day, a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, you’re an athlete.’ But we’re not just athletes but people, too. And we have a right to speak up for what we believe in.”
The month of April is observed as National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. If you or someone you love is looking for support or advice, please contact 800-656-HOPE to chat with a trained support specialist.