Incredible Women

Simone Biles On How She Set Herself Free From Expectations

In a powerful and candid Incredible Women essay, gymnast SIMONE BILES reflects on how the past year has changed her. The highly decorated gymnast talks about taking time out for herself and her family, getting back to the mat on her own terms, looking to the Paris Olympics, and her hopes for the year ahead

“I really wanted to be more active in my family life, to see my friends more and be more present,” says Biles

“I am very much a planner, and every year I set goals for myself. But, at the beginning of 2023, I felt like I should just roll with things and see what happened, without any expectations. To be honest, at that point I truly didn’t think I would compete in gymnastics again after getting the ‘twisties’ at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Now, I’m proud of the way I approached the year – by being brave, putting in the effort, and then getting out there again and competing for myself.

“My team and I had to do things differently compared to how we’ve trained before. At first, it was going into the gym just to play, to see if I could still twist. I tried to be very intentional about everything I was doing this time around, to ensure I feel comfortable and confident enough to train at a high level, and to simply compete again. And, through it all, my mental health has been a priority; I’ve been keeping up with my weekly therapy and I’m proud of that.

“As I think about it, I’ve been in the public eye since I was 15 years old, which is a lot on your body and your mind. Taking time away from competing wasn’t as intentional as my return has been; I really wanted to be more active in my family life, to see my friends more and be more present. It wasn’t to hide from Tokyo – it was more that I valued this as time we don’t get back, and I wanted to give myself those moments with family that I didn’t get to have a lot of before. I’m more patient now, accepting that everything doesn’t have to happen on your time, and when you want it to. I’ve learnt that it’s OK to not be where you think you’re supposed to be at that exact moment in your life.

I’m looking forward to what the year brings, and I feel blessed to be in the position I’m in… I want to use my voice more and continue using my platform for good
The gymnast with her sister Adria (center) and best friend, Rachel (left)
Biles married NFL player Jonathan Owens in April 2023

“In the past year, I got married, watched my niece be born, have been on girls’ trips, traveled with friends and had vacations with my husband. It’s been an incredible year doing things I wouldn’t have been able to do if I were training, as I have in the past. Marriage has been a beautiful thing. It’s unfortunate that Jonathan and I were long-distance so soon after our wedding, because his season started with the Green Bay Packers. But we are very fortunate in the bigger picture, and realizing that makes it easier to find patience when life throws you a curveball.

“My niece celebrated her first birthday recently, and that was a highlight for my entire family. She was born premature and was an IVF baby, and now she is 19lbs and celebrating her first birthday! The year has really been all about family. Although we did have quality time when I was younger – Sunday dinners were always spent together – it’s exciting to be more present in my siblings’ lives. I’ve gotten to take a step back, to enjoy it, and to not worry about people having to work around my training schedule. My life has become so much more collaborative and balanced. During the holidays, as my husband and I are long-distance, I have been out more often to visit him. It’s important for me to support and show up for him.

“I really want to bring the benefits of patience into this year, as well as being kind to myself and taking it one day at a time. Not stressing so much about the things I can’t control has been a huge lesson for me, and I hope to take that forward. I know it’s hard for some people to do, and what I find helps achieve it is saying ‘no’ more and only showing up for what makes you feel comfortable. It takes practice, but if you say no to the small things first, then the big things don’t seem so daunting, and you don’t feel like you’re letting people down.

“I’m looking forward to what the year brings, and I feel blessed to be in the position I’m in. Although I freak out a little at the beginning of every Olympic cycle… my training is going well, and I will hopefully be able to compete in Paris. And there is lots beyond that, too – I’m equally excited to advocate for mental health and other causes I believe in. I want to use my voice more and continue using my platform for good. But, while there are plans to be made, I’ll try to take some of the freedom of just seeing what happens in 2024, too, because it served me well last year.”


The gymnast with her niece, Ronni Louise, who turned one in November