Seven-time Olympic gold medallist Simone Biles is making her away across the United States, headlining the 35-city 'Gold Over America Tour' with hopes of spreading a simple message: athletes - even those considered among the greatest of all time - are normal people, too.
"I think that's what we're trying to portray in these shows, that we're human as well, not just athletes," Biles told Olympics.com Friday before the tour's show at Anaheim's Honda Center.
The show features Biles’ Tokyo teammates Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner along with 2020 Olympians Ellie Black of Canada and Melanie de Jesus dos Santos of France. 2016 Olympic team gold medallist Laurie Hernandez, 2008 Olympic silver medallist Chellsie Memmel, who returned to competition in 2021, and 2017 world all-around champion Morgan Hurd are also part of the cast.
The show is an extravaganza with lights, dancing and, of course, plenty of gymnastics, but more than that it's inspiring.
That's intentional and part of two years of planning that's gone into the show called 'GOAT' for short, in a nod to Biles’ status as the most decorated female gymnast at the World Championships and Olympic Games.
Mental health was something Biles says she always wanted to feature in the show, but the COVID-19 yearlong delay to the Tokyo Games and the subsequent events at those Olympics where the 24-year-old was forced to withdraw from several medal rounds to focus on her mental health influenced the final product.
"Without that extra year, the storytelling wouldn't be as raw and real as it is now because we took some of those events that happened at the Olympics, kind of some of those sad, down in the dump parts, but we made them into something so special because people go through these emotions every day if they have stress, anxiety, this, that, the other," said Biles. "So without that extra year, I don't think the show would be as good."
Biles' 2016 Olympic teammate Hernandez is the show's emcee. The Olympic gold and silver medallist says the show's main messages would have resonated with her in her youth.
"I definitely wish these conversations were happening [when I was younger]," said Hernandez. "I think I would have felt a little more comfortable sharing it just because sometimes it takes hearing somebody verbalize what you're feeling to be able to talk about it to somebody else."
Hernandez, like Biles, has become outspoken on issues of mental health in the past year, sharing online – especially on her popular TikTok profile – her struggles with anxiety.
Those conversations, and their prominent placement in the GOAT, are part of a shift in the visibility of mental health in sports that Hernandez hopes the young gymnasts in the audience will take to heart.
“I think the biggest thing that we're hoping young athletes take away from it is just that it's OK to talk about it,” Hernandez said. “So, we're just hoping that it sparks the conversation, and it lets everybody know these things happen and these feelings happen and it's OK.
“You can talk about them.”