Springy, powerful, double-twisting double backflips make Simmone Biles standout in international competitions, but her confident voice outside the gym is shifting the public face of gymnastics and the definition of what it means to be an elite athlete.
Bile’s original moves are impossible for any other athlete. “The Biles,” is a double-twisting double backflip on the balance beam, and the “Biles II” is a triple-double with double backflip and three twists during the floor exercise.
These moves crush the stereotype of a female gymnast as a petite young girl dancing on a balance beam.
Biles not only sets a high bar when it comes to strength and athletic excellence, but she also uses her celebrity status to speak out against abuse.
While training at Károlyi Ranch, Larry Nassar, a former trainer for USA Gymnastics sexually abused young gymnasts, including Biles. USA Gymnastics continued to use the facility after Nassars’ conviction, forcing victims to return to the site of their abuse.
Biles took to Twitter to express her devastation at having to continually return to Károlyi Ranch for training, forcing USA Gymnastics to permanently stop using facility.
While posting on Twitter can seem like a trivial act, Biles tweet shone a light on the cracks within USA Gymnastics, forcing the organization to make changes.
Biles has also utilized Twitter as a springboard to call out racism in the world of gymnastics.
Interim chief of USA Gymnastics Mary Bono posted a tweet reading, “Unfortunately I had [Nike] shoes in my bag. Luckily I had a marker too,” targeting fired 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick after Bono had spent just five days on the job. Bono blacked out the logo on her Nike shoes, appearing criticize Kapernick’s endorsement deal with Nike, which many people interpreted as racist.
Biles called out Bono, writing “[Don’t] worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.”
Biles is unarguably the best female gymnast ever, but she also demonstrates how sports and social norms can be changed by speaking out against injustices.
When she finishes her gymnastics career at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Biles will not have just shattered gymnastics records but she will leave behind a new expectation that athletes speak up for themselves.
For those who won’t or can’t speak up for their beliefs, Biles serves as a voice for them, forcing change in the systems that continue to hold back young women from reaching their full potential.