Simone Biles Q&A: Kidney stones, speaking out and a new coach

Gymnast Simone Biles starts laughing while taking a break during a workout at the Wold Champions Centre, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Spring. After a year of triumphs – a fifth national championship, a fourth world all-around title and a successful return to competition after a year’s absence – and hardships – the aftermath of the Larry Nassar scandal, a kidney stone attack at the world championships and the pressures of being on the world stage – Simone Biles is taking a few days off.

Biles, 21, of Spring, who earlier this month won six medals, including four golds, at the world gymnastics championships in Doha, Qatar, while battling the pain of a kidney stone, is taking vacation time before returning to the gym later this month in preparation for the 2019 gymnastics season.

She discussed some of the ups and downs of 2018 with Chronicle staff writer David Barron. 1of9Gymnast Simone Biles practices on a balance beam while other gymnasts observe her at the Wold Champions Centre, Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, in Spring.Photo: Marie D. De Jesús, Staff photographer Q: How do you sum up a year that has included such challenges in and out of the gym?

A: This year has been a whirlwind of getting back into the gym and back into the rhythm of things and going out there and competing. It’s been different before, because I never took a break before. To get back into the swing of things took some time getting used to, and you wish there was more time. But everything happens for a reason, and it was good timing. It’s good preparation for what is to come.

Q: You’re still dealing with the Pearl of Doha, the name you gave your kidney stone. How are you feeling?

A: My back has a little bit o pain here and there, but other than that it’s ok. It was like that for almost a week before I went to the hospital. That is when I was in a lot of pain.

Q: How important was it to have your parents in Doha to help you through your kidney stone attack?

A: If they weren’t there, I probably wouldn’t have gone (to the hospital) at all. It probably would have gotten worse. I was happy they were there.

Q: How badly did it hurt?

A: It wasn’t good. I was in a lot of pain. I was trying not to cry.

Q: After a fall in event finals, you were not happy with people who said you had a disappointing performance. Why do you even look at social media between events? It would be like Tom Brady tweeting at halftime about throwing an interception.

A: I had been hearing a lot of stuff about how disappointing Simone is and this and that, and I’m, OK, first of all, nobody gets to say whenever I have a disappointing performance beside myself. I’ll decide when it’s disappointing.

I walked away with a medal. Yes, I was disappointing in myself and in my performance, yes, but you don’t get to decide that before I do.

Q: This was a return to team competition for you at world championships, and this time you were the veteran. How as it different than past events?

A: We have a different team dynamic. The girls are younger. We have a lot of rookies, but I think the team is pretty good overall. We’re getting used to each other and seeing each other more because we’re just starting up (training) camps.

Q: Are you a team leader in the same way Aly Raisman was in 2016?

A: I try to be. It’s a little different. You’re guiding (younger teammates) through. I think it eases them a little bit so they can calm down and perform at their best.

Q: Did you have any advance warning that the U.S. Olympic Committee was going to try to remove USA Gymnastics as a governing body?

A: We didn’t know the news was coming. We’re usually the last to find out, or we find out at the same time on Twitter or social media.

Q: People like to talk about how much power you have to influence the future of gymnastics. Is that an area in which you want to assert yourself?

A: It’s more of people putting things on me I don’t ask for. As long as it’s in a positive manner, I don’t mind trying to speak up and saying what is right. We usually don’t bring up anything unless we positively have to or if we want to get it off our chest.

But I wish they wouldn’t try to carry it all on me, because that’s not my job. That’s their job to do. It sucks that you have to put all of the power into one person for the people in authority to hear or listen.

Q: Are you happy with your current routines, or do you need to make changes for next season?

A: I’m happy with where we are. We hopefully will be more consistent. If there are things we need to change, I’ll sit down with (coaches Laurent Landi and Cecile Canqueteau-Landi) and get some ideas for that.

Q: Could you have accomplished what you did this season without the impetus of having a new coach who gave up something new to which you could aspire?

A: I always wanted to be better on bars. It happened slowly with not enough progress. It wasn’t my forte. I kind of dreaded it most of the time, but now I enjoy it a little more. Even on beam, if you enjoy it, you have more confidence and feel more comfortable.

Q: How close are you to where you want to be on each event?

A: I’m pretty pleased with where I am on bars. You always have to work on floor leaps and turns. I’m not where I want to be on beam, so that gives me something to look forward to in training. I’m pretty pleased with vault. I just need to work on landings.

Q: Did working with new coaches give you new perspective?

A: It’s good to start over sometime to bring a new atmosphere in my lie and theirs as well. It was a good change. I wouldn’t want to go back and do it any differently. I’m excited for years to come. It’s important that you’re not stuck in the same place, that somebody else will come in and push you beyond your limits.


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