It’s safe to say that U.S. Olympic all-around gold medalist Simone Biles, 19, has overcome many challenges on her way to becoming the world’s greatest gymnast. Still, according to the teen athlete, a 2013 incident in which a male coach called her fat, made her feel greatness was beyond reach.
Speaking to “Today’s” Hoda Kotb, Biles opened up about her body-shaming experience. “You overheard a coach say, ‘You know why she crashed? Because she’s too fat — that’s why. How does she expect to compete like that?’ ” Kotb prompted.
Biles, who admitted she wasn’t performing her best, revealed it was a hard comment to swallow. “I dismissed myself from the floor so nobody could see me and I walked to the back behind the curtains and I was crying.” However, thanks to some encouraging words from her head team coordinator, Martha Karolyi, the elite athlete managed to pull it together and move past the moment.
“Martha pulled me back on the floor and she gave me a little bit of a pep talk and was like, ‘See, you can’t train like this and let the results show,’” said Biles. “So I went back to the gym and I did as told. Her pep talk kind of gave me a little bit of an up rather than a down.”
“It felt good to hear her,” she added. “Because I was terrified she was going to be upset with me.”
Now, the Cincinnati native has spun the painful occurrence into gold, penning a memoir titled Courage to Soar, in which she touches on everything from being adopted and her time in the foster care system, to being home-schooled, discovering her love for gymnastics and her relationship with her biological mother, who suffered from substance abuse.
“No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to start something you love,” Biles, who is currently on the New York leg of her book tour told People. “And do something good with it! Pursue your dreams and passions!” She even had a few inspirational words for her young fans who may also be experiencing body-shaming. “Don’t even listen, love your body!” Biles continued. “You were born with it, God has blessed you. Don’t pay attention to negativity.”