Simone Biles has a new coach and a plan for when she’ll return to competition.
The Olympic all-around champion said Monday night that she’ll train with Laurent Landi, who coached fellow Final Fiver Madison Kocian. Landi also will serve as the team program director at the World Champions Centre, the gym owned by the Biles’ family.
Biles and Landi will begin working together Nov. 1.
“I’m excited to get to work with him because I know how strong a bar worker he is,” Biles told USA TODAY Sports. “Hopefully I’ll gain more swing and rhythm. If not, at least I’ll gain more confidence on bars.”
Biles is still reluctant to call this a comeback, simply because she doesn’t want anyone setting expectations for her. But her plan is to compete in a couple of events in July at the U.S. Classic, the qualifier for the national championships, and be ready for next year’s world championships.
Next year’s P&G Championships are Aug. 16-19 and the world championships are Oct. 25-Nov. 3 in Doha, Qatar.
“I’m going to take baby steps,” Biles said. “The first goal would be championships, world championships.”
Biles had a run of dominance unlike anything the gymnastics world has ever seen, culminating in four gold medals at last summer’s Rio Olympics. She went three years without being beaten, and was the first woman to win three consecutive all-around titles at the world championships.
But she took time off after the Olympics, wanting to give her body and mind a break. She did a national gymnastics tour with Rio teammates Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Laurie Hernandez — Kocian made occasional stops when her schedule at UCLA allowed — and competed on Dancing with the Stars.
She did promotional appearances and took vacations. She even jumped off a cliff in Belize, something she’d never been allowed to do when she was training for fear of getting hurt.
“I was resting my mind and body, and getting to do things I wouldn’t be allowed to do or have to avoid because of injury,” Biles said.
She always planned to return to the gym, though. The only question was when, and with whom.
Aimee Boorman, who had coached Biles for her entire career, moved to Florida after Rio, and Biles had not worked with any of the other coaches at her family’s gym. She talked about different options with Rhonda Faehn, the women’s program director for USA Gymnastics, and decided Landi was the best fit.
Biles was familiar with him from national team training camps. In addition to his expertise on uneven bars — Kocian was a co-world champion on bars in 2015 and won a silver medal in Rio — Biles liked the way he interacted with his athletes.
Biles knows there is a lot of hard work ahead. Though she’s “played” in the gym, it’s not like doing routines. Or even high-level conditioning.
While she’s not looking forward to being sore “all the time,” she is eager to be a full-time gymnast again.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I do realize that I’m very winded and my adrenaline is out the window. So I’ll have to work that back up.”
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.