Most of us can remember where we were when we saw Michael Jordan jump on top of the score table, five fingers raised in the air signifying that once again he'd taken his team to victory. Many of us can recall the pride we felt watching the Williams sisters, individually and as a unit, change the world of tennis. Will we ever forget Tiger Woods, in his red shirt and Nike hat, pumping his fist after winning his first Masters? Or seeing Kobe Bryant score 81 points in a regulation game of basketball?
Greatness sticks with us. It tattoos itself into the very fiber of our beings and stays there to remind us of what is possible. We call on these images when we lack motivation and feel like we can't take the next step forward. It is this second-hand fire that makes us revere, love, and mourn people we've never even met. It is our way of saying thank you for showing up beyond what is required. For pushing past every broken bone, broken spirit and broken play. It is our love letter back to them for the love they so selflessly pour into what they do.
Enter Simone Biles. The most decorated American gymnast in the history of the sport. 30 medals. Unparalleled skill. True dominance. Since 2013, the 4'8" assassin has done things that defy human understanding and far surpass any laws of gravity. At just 24-years-old, there is a real argument that she is the best athlete we have ever seen—excluding nobody.
Not MJ, nor Serena or Tiger, or Kobe ever did what she has done consistently without taking a loss. To say she is at the top of her game would be a gross understatement—whatever the top once was, she has redefined it. Simone has ascended to a stratosphere that only she can breathe the air in, and with the Tokyo Olympics and the opportunity to become the only woman to win back-to-back championships in the last 50 years in her sights, Simone Biles' only competition is herself.
21Ninety caught up with the Queen of gymnastics to talk legacy, silencing her haters, and her new Facebook Watch show Simone vs. Herself that premieres Tuesday, June 15th on the platform.
Iman N. Milner: In your own words, who is Simone Biles?
Simone Biles: Oh man, that's a big question. For me, just an athlete loving what she does and enjoying the time I have in the sport. And what being thankful for what God has gifted me with.
IM: It may seem like you just burst onto the scene for some people and were adored right away, but I am sure that wasn't always the case. What has the journey been like getting to this place where we're talking G.O.A.T. status?
SB: Right. The journey definitely hasn't been easy, but it's been worth it. Every step I've taken along the way, I've learned something new. It's been exciting to be on this team for so long, and I cherish every single moment. I've been here for quite a bit now. I'm very much a veteran. But I've tried to just keep getting better and stay grateful for how I've been able to perform.
IM: There's a pretty viral photo making its rounds of you alongside your teammates who competed last weekend in TX, and all of the women are Black. How does it feel to be part of ushering in a new day in gymnastics?
SB: It feels amazing. Especially to have those younger generations be able to look up and say, "if they can do it, I can do it." Representation matters, and I hope it keeps inspiring the youth.
IM: Simone Vs. Herself is a pretty bold statement. Do you think people really understand the gravity of the history you're making right now? Has it even sunken in for you?
SB: It definitely hasn't fully sunken in for me yet. I think most people can understand the gravity of it, but some people still don't get it, and that's ok—gymnastics isn't for everybody. Some people can't relate it to their sport or understand all the work that goes into it. But I don't really worry about it too much. I just do my thing and move on to what's ahead of me.
IM: What are you most excited for people to learn about you through the show?
SB: That at the end of that day, I am human. I go through some of the things you guys do. Although in the gym, I make everything I do look superhuman, I am just a normal human being.
IM: The run you've been putting together since 2013 is the stuff of legends. You've been wearing the goat on your leotards. Do you feel like you have anything left to prove?
SB: I wouldn't say I have anything left to prove because I have done so much. I've accomplished so much in my career that now it's about keeping that up. The reason I put the goat on my leotard is because I felt like it wasn't fair that the haters can say whatever they wanted, and I couldn't defend myself. So, by doing that, I knew the haters would hate it, and the fans would love it.
IM: And we did love it. We were gagged!
SB: (laughs) Oh, good.
IM: Last year, the Olympics were canceled, and this year we're all still reeling from a pretty rough year. How did you keep your head about you with the looming fear that one year could really change everything for you in this sport?
SB: Yeah, it definitely could. But it's all about how you look at it. Obviously, in the beginning, I went through all the feels and felt all the emotions because that's how I needed to cope with it. At the end of the day, I'm like it's not going to be the end of the world. It is going to be another year of training.
So, how can we train safely and keep my mental and physical health in shape? We went back to the drawing board and did that. Other than that, you can only control what you can control. It's all about how you take things.
IM: How do you keep yourself motivated when you're at this place in such a legendary career?
SB: There are just still things I want to accomplish, and I expect so much from myself. That alone keeps me going.
IM: When you step away from the sport, what do you do just for Simone?
SB: Whenever I have a moment just to chill, that's when I'm the happiest. I relax, hang out with family and friends. My life is pretty fast-paced, and I'm in the gym for so many hours a day; when I can do nothing, I love it.
IM: A lot will be written about your legacy—the medals, the moves that no one can do but you—if you could write your own legacy, what would be the most important thing you'd want people to say about Simone?
SB: Hmmm, that's hard. When it comes to legacy, I really don't think that I have any control of it. Everyone else tells the story; I am just living in it. That's all I can do right now.
IM: Well, we are all rooting for you. We can't wait to see what else you do to amaze us all. It's such an honor to be able to watch you do what you do.
SB: Aww, thank you so much. I can feel that support, and it really does mean a lot to me!