- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A 30-minute ride is enough to put Simone Biles to sleep, because following a roundup of gold medals in the Olympics is a flurry of demands.

Biles won gold medals in the all-around, floor and vault, plus a team gold with her mates dubbed the “Final Five” at Rio de Janeiro at the Summer Olympics in August. The 19-year-old was a compact and explosive phenomenon in Rio, the clear favorite entering the competition and the one biting into her gold medals, now stored in a safe, afterward.

Since, she has been on tour for two months with her four teammates — Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian — 2008 Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin, 2008 balance beam champion Shawn Johnson, 2012 Olympic team champion Jordyn Wieber and others. They stop in the Verizon Center on Thursday.

The tour ends Sunday. That finish only precedes another start, when Biles will move on to a book tour. This is the afterlife for an Olympic champion. Douglas went through a similar process after becoming the first African-American woman to win the individual all-around championship in 2012. Douglas was also the first U.S. gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around and team competitions at the same Olympics. Her press tour continued all the way to Super Bowl XL in New York, where she was around on Media Day and during the week promoting a biopic almost two years after celebrating in London.

“It’s been crazy,” Biles said Wednesday. “I’m always busy. If I’m not busy, I’m trying to find time to sleep somewhere. But everything has been so amazing. We’ve gotten to do so many cool opportunities.”

Twice on Wednesday, she confirmed that she expects to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. There, history and new rules will challenge Biles‘ pursuit to repeat as all-around champion at the Olympics.

There has not been a repeat all-around champion on the women’s side since Vera Caslavska, of what was then Czechoslovakia, won in 1964 and ‘68. Americans have won the last four all-around competitions: Carly Patterson in 2004, Liukin in 2008, then Douglas and Biles. None of the three Americans who preceded Biles even made it into the all-around finals at the next Olympics. Patterson did not make the team in 2008. Liukin did not make the team in 2012. Douglas made the team, despite all the public relations work and changing coaches multiple times in between Olympics, and narrowly missed participating in the Final in Rio. Douglas would have had a shot at history if she was not outscored by two teammates, Biles and Raisman, in the all-around preliminaries. A maximum of two competitors from one National Olympic Committee are allowed in the all-around final

“Every year is different,” Biles said. “Anything can happen. If we have a junior team, some people could go to college and some people could decide they don’t want to do elite anymore. After the Olympic year, the rule book changes, as well. So sometimes it’s harder to adapt because they make it harder every year, because we just keep apparently getting better. It’s a little bit harder.”

Biles did not project what rules changes may be imposed by International Gymnastics Federation. Her power and thrust in performances was unmatched, allowing her to perform such difficult routines, particularly on the floor, there was little chance for another to win.

Biles plans to take a year off after all the touring is done and serious training begins again. In between, she intends to carry a message to other girls that they can be just like her, since she was once like them, emulating gymnastics stars she saw on television. Then, it’s back to work, adhering to whatever changes her body makes in the next four years.

“I think anyone can get better as long as you put your mind to it, set new goals,” Biles said. “I don’t know if I can, but I would hope I can.”

She expects to have a chance to do so in Tokyo.


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