KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Four-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles apologized for the tears that filled her eyes Wednesday.
“I don’t mean to cry,” the 22-year-old Biles told a group of reporters after a morning training session at Kansas City’s Sprint Center, which hosts the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships this week. “It’s just hard coming here for an organization and having had them fail us so many times.”
Biles’ reference was clear: The sexual abuse and so many other gymnasts suffered at the hands of team doctor Larry Nassar under the guise of medical treatment and the reports following his sentencing that USA Gymnastics officials were aware of accusations against Nassar and took preventative action.
“We had one job – winning Olympic gold,” Biles said. “And we have done everything that they asked us for – even when we didn’t want to. And they couldn’t do one job! You had one job; you literally had one job, and you couldn’t protect us!”
It wasn’t the first time Biles had criticized USA Gymnastics and its former president, Steve Penny, for allowing former team physician Larry Nassar to prey on young gymnasts before taking action. But rarely has she been as emotional in public as she was Wednesday, perched on a chair on the arena floor, her legs tucked under her, talking with reporters about the state of her gymnastics as she seeks her fifth U.S. all-around title here.
Asked about her response to an 18-month Congressional investigation that castigated former executives of USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee for inaction that allowed Nassar’s serial molestation, Biles said she felt it was important that she and other gymnasts express their continuing disappointment publicly.
“We have a platform, and when we tweet, it obviously goes a long way. We’re blessed to be given a platform so that people will hear,” Biles said. “But it’s not easy coming back to the sport, coming back to the organization that has failed you. … I feel like everything is a reminder of what I went through, and what I’ve been through, and what I’m going through and how I’ve come out of it.”
After leading the U.S. women to team gold at the Rio Olympics and claiming individual golds in the prestigious all-around, vault and floor exercise, Biles took the 2017 season off.
In January 2018, she acknowledged via Twitter that she was among the hundreds of gymnasts abused by Nassar. Biles returned to training around the same time started competing again that July.
But there were days, Biles said Wednesday, that she couldn’t bear to get through a full day of training. Other days, she couldn’t bring herself to go the gym at all.
She credited her coaches, Laurent and Cecile Landi, for understanding her struggles. Therapy helped, she added, and her work continues.
“It’s just really sad because every time I go to the doctor or training, I get worked on (via physical therapy); it’s like I don’t want to get worked on,” Biles said. “But my body hurts. I’m 22. At the end of the day … I have to put in the therapy. It’s just hard. I work through. It’ll take some time. I’m strong. I’ll get through it. But it’s hard.”
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