Simone Biles is human, after all.
The reigning Olympic gymnastics champion acknowledged some trepidation about her return to the gym Thursday for the first time in more than a year. Will the time off make her susceptible to injuries? Can she return to the same level that made her the greatest female gymnast of all time?
Is new coach Laurent Landi going to make her practice at the crack of dawn?
“I’m a little afraid Laurent is an early riser,” Biles said Wednesday, a touch of horror in her voice. “I asked him what time he wanted me to come in and that’s for the meeting and he said 8 or 8:30. So I’m hoping practice will start at 9 every day.
“Because if it’s any earlier, I think I’m going to cry.”
Couldn’t she just ask fellow Final Fiver Madison Kocian or 2014 world teammate Alyssa Baumann, both of whom trained with Landi?
“No!” Biles said. “I’m too scared they’re going to say 8. Or 7!”
The prospect of early alarms aside, Biles is looking forward to getting back to training.
No one in women’s gymnastics has had a run like Biles did from 2013 to the Rio Olympics. She won three consecutive all-around titles at the world championships, and led the U.S. women to team golds in 2014 and 2015. (There was no team competition in 2013.)
She won five medals in Rio, all but one of them gold. In addition to her all-around title, she led the Americans to their second consecutive team gold and claimed the top spot on vault and floor exercise. She won bronze on balance beam.
Though Biles, 20, knew she wanted to compete in Tokyo, she also knew she needed a break. She’s spent the last year making appearances for her sponsors, including her trip here Wednesday to promote Hershey’s Gold, the company’s first new candy bar in more than 20 years.
She also competed on Dancing with the Stars, and took the vacations she never could when her schedule was dictated by training.
“It just feels like the year went by so quick that it didn’t seem like a full year. So it feels like I didn’t miss that much,” Biles said. “Even though worlds just passed. Which is kind of sad. I’m glad I wasn’t there competing and all that, but it’s also like, ‘I missed worlds.’”
Biles has a few more promotional appearances to make this week and next. But after that, don’t expect to see her until July, when she plans to return to competition at the U.S. Classic.
Biles said she’ll probably do two events at Classic – likely balance beam and uneven bars – but will be training all four so she’ll be ready to do the all-around at the P&G Championships and world championships.
P&Gs are Aug. 16-19 and the world championships are Oct. 25-Nov. 3 in Doha, Qatar.
“I had a dream about bars last night and my hands were on fire,” Biles said. “That’s probably going to come true. Like this week.”
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.