Exclusive! Simone Biles determined to keep pushing her limits ahead of Tokyo 2020

The four-time Olympic champion, who has just become an online gymnastics instructor, told the Olympic Channel Podcast about what drives her

By Rory Jiwani

Simone Biles is used to making history. Again and again.

Fresh from claiming her sixth U.S. Gymnastics all-around title and showing off two spectacular new moves, the American superstar has cemented her claim to be the greatest gymnast of her generation.

Her triple-double floor pass and her double-double beam dismount had social media abuzz with a number of celebrities expressing their admiration for the four-time Olympic gold medallist.

Gymnastics gets a good amount of attention but it got a crazy amount of attention - Simone Biles talks about her eventful U.S. Nationals on the Olympic Channel Podcast

She's even made a move into teaching, linking up with Masterclass.com to give an online Gymnastics Fundamentals course.

In October, she will bid to add to her tally of 14 world titles, including five all-around crowns, in Stuttgart, Germany.

And then next year, it's all about Tokyo 2020 where she will hope to end her career in fitting fashion.

It's not all been sweetness and light for the 22-year-old.

On a training day in Kansas City, Biles broke down as she lashed out at USA Gymnastics for failing to protect her and fellow gymnasts from doctor Larry Nassar who was later jailed for life for serial child sexual abuse.

After her latest success, our very own Scott Bregman visited Biles at her home gym in Houston for a special Olympic Channel Podcast.

They discussed what motivates her despite being so far clear of the opposition, and how she considered retirement after Rio 2016.

Simone Biles competing at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City in August 2019

Olympic Channel: Your performance from the U.S. Championships obviously got a ton of attention. Were you surprised by that and what do you think was maybe the coolest shout-out you've gotten on social media?

Simone Biles: No, I was actually really surprised at the social media attention that I got because I guess I didn't think about it. I had done two skills that nobody's ever done before, and gymnastics gets a good amount of attention but it got like a crazy amount of attention so that was pretty wild to me. But I feel like one of my favourite shout-outs was probably Michelle… our former first lady Michelle Obama or Chrissy Teigen. They’re like my favourite people.

OC: I like how you're on a first name basis with Michelle now.

SB: (Laughs)

OC: There's really no one pushing you competitively. But you continue to push yourself obviously and do more and more and more gymnastics so where does that come from?

SB: I feel like it just comes from the desire to want to do gymnastics and the love that I still have for the sport. Obviously, Cecile and Laurent (Landi) do a really good job at pushing me in the gym to do upgrades, not only because I'm ahead but just for myself and to see what I can do and see how far I can push myself and what I can put out there.

"A lot of the skills were kind of unimaginable but then we turned them into doing them for real. So that was pretty crazy."

OC: Do you think it's harder this time around when you are so far ahead to kind of create that internal enemy, that internal competition?

SB: No, because I feel like the first time I did it - the first time around - I was doing it for myself but I felt more pressured to do it for other people and to make other people happy.

But I feel like, this time around, I can do it just for myself so I feel a little bit happier. Because it's like I don't have anything to prove to anybody, I'm out there doing it just for myself this time.

OC: So take us through what's going through your mind when you're about to run down the floor and do a triple-double or you’re setting up for that double-double off the beam.

SB: (Laughs) Yeah, honestly sometimes I just hope that I can remember how to twist and that I don't get lost, like worst case scenario, that's what usually goes through my mind. But other than that... I don’t know, that's a good question. I really don't think too much. I just kind of do it.

And then on beam, I do get a little bit nervous but I just hope that I go straight because sometimes I get a little bit crooked and I'm like, “Well, the mat’s not that wide.” So I try to keep it straight but I don't know... I try not to think too too much about the skills because they're already so hard so if I overthink it I might do something wrong.

OC: How long have you had to train a skill like either of those before we saw them out there?

SB: I don't know. On beam, I've trained the double-double for a while now. But just like playing around with it, nothing really serious until this year.

And then the triple double, again I played around with it when I was younger, and then Laurent asked me to do it. I was like, “OK, you're crazy, that's never going in a floor routine.” But the more I do it the easier it gets and I'm more aware of where I am in the air and whenever I land so I guess that kind of shocks me. It took a while but not as long as you would think.

OC: Is there anything else you're working on that we've never seen before?

SB: Not really. I mean we're trying to play around with things but nothing too crazy. I already do pretty crazy stuff so we don’t want to make it too crazy because then the injury gets like… you think of worse things.

OC: It's hard to imagine a quadruple double anyway.

SB: Yeah. Oh gosh, I don't even think I can twist more than three times anyway.

OC: In the lead up to Rio I wasn't necessarily sure that we'd see you in 2019. How seriously did you consider just calling it?

SB: I was fairly young at the time, or at least I felt it rather than how I feel now. But I was pretty sure I was done. But then in the back of my mind I kind of knew I was going to come back.

I just wanted to be done so that I could fully relax for the year and a half that I took off because I feel like if I knew exactly when I was coming back then you're just stressing about it the whole entire time while you're trying to enjoy your vacation or hiatus or whatever you want to call it.

So I just kind of let things happen, travel, spend time with my friends and my family, and then I decided to come back like way later so that I could just be stress-free and not think about gymnastics. Because I needed that mental break from it.

OC: Obviously you've accomplished everything you can in the sport. What is success for you at this point and how is it different than before?

SB: I feel like before it was just winning. And now I feel like it's different. I want to do good and if I win, or whatever the outcome is, then that's successful. But even on day one of the U.S. Championships like I was really upset that I fell and yes, it was a skill no female has ever done before but I was pretty upset with myself just because I know I can do it.

So I feel like my standards for myself are higher so it doesn't matter if I win. If there are mistakes that I did throughout the meet then I'm upset with myself. So I feel like it just measured differently.

OC: You posted something on your Instagram yesterday. I think it was like your goal was to make an impact while making an income. How important are the things that you're doing off the competition floor with speaking out and finding your voice?

SB: Since I'm still in the sport, it's a little bit harder to do just because I have to come back everyday and I still have to work here in the gym. But other than that I think it's really important to speak out and for kids to see that it's OK, you don't you don't have to silence yourself.

"I think it's important for kids to see that we have a life outside of gym, and that we can be role models in that way rather than just being stuck in the gym 24/7 all the time."

OC: When someone says Simone Biles, what do you want us to think?

SB: I don't know. Hopefully whenever they think about Simone Biles, obviously gymnastics is going to come to mind. But hopefully… I don't know, it's hard because I feel like as I get older my personality comes out a little bit more so it's kind of hard to say what I want them to think.

Hopefully a pretty well-composed young female, smart, well put together, funny… I don't know, I feel like I can keep going but it just depends. It just depends.

OC: What does the Olympics mean to you?

SB: Oh goodness, the Olympics to me means the biggest stage in the world. You put your best foot forward and you have fun while making memories.