Simone Biles is back–again.
This time, Biles’ hiatus from the gym wasn’t a self-imposed, post-Olympic break but, rather, a necessity due to the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing stay-at-home orders that ushered the majority of America, and the world, into their homes for months.
The four-time Olympic gold medalist and reigning World champion posted on her Instagram story on Monday morning, saying she’s “back at it” while donning a purple, floral leotard. Later, she shared a snap from her family’s gym, World Champions Centre, which is located in the Houston, Texas-area.
Biles is just one of many athletes returning to training in states that have begun to reopen. Texas, in particular, entered “phase 2” on Monday, which allowed businesses including sports facilities to return to a “new normal” of operations.
World Champions’ initial reopening is only for competitive team athletes, like Biles and fellow U.S. National Team member Jordan Chiles.
The gym, which is owned by the Biles family, is taking the necessary precautions to try and reduce the spread of COVID-19 while also allowing elite athletes, and eventually all of its athletes, to return to training. Those precautions include temperature checks among entry, masks being worn at all times by non-athletes (coaches, staff, etc.), closed locker rooms, markings around the gym to maintain social distancing, regular cleanings, hand sanitizer stations, and personal chalk buckets for each athlete.
Cecile Landi, who has been coaching Biles with husband Laurent since 2017, recently told Olympic Channel that “it was weird coaching in a mask… but it was good to see the team.” The team started back with some conditioning and basics on bars and beam.
Instead of jumping right back into training and getting up to full speed almost inhumanly, like she did in late 2017/early 2018, Biles will take things a bit slower this time around.
With the Olympic Games and practically all future competitions postponed until 2021, there is no sense of urgency and plenty of time to take things slow, pacing her training for the next 13 months leading up to the games, which will now be held July 23-August 8, 2021.
The G.O.A.T., as she is widely considered by many in the gymnastics world, hasn’t been immune to the stressors related to the pandemic, self-isolating, and having her Olympic dreams put on hold for a whole year longer. She has been open about her mental and physical challenges since the games were delayed.
Pre-coronavirus, Biles was planning to dominate in Tokyo before stepping away from the sport in August. Over the past few weeks, she has had to come to terms with the postponement and all that goes with that.
“I’d tell her, ‘I know. I know it sucks. I know it’s hard. I know it’s not fair,’” Landi told Olympic Channel. “But there’s bigger issues in the world right now and that’s what we need to focus on. I think seeing the magnitude of this virus gave her perspective to say, ‘Ok, one more year? It’s really not that big of a deal in a lifetime.’”
Biles, herself, has said she didn’t come this far to “give up.” Now, she seems to be fully on board, poised and ready to make history when the time comes.