In the five short months since Simone Biles vaulted and flipped herself into the Olympic pantheon, the Spring native has kept herself busy. She published a book, Courage to Soar, already a Young Adult bestseller. She posed for the forthcoming Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and strutted down the red carpet at the Golden Globes. In between local book signings, we were lucky enough to catch the gymnastics star for a few minutes. Below is that (lightly-edited) conversation:
What was the reception like when you came back to Houston from Rio? Were you surprised by it? What do you remember about that moment?
Yeah, it was pretty crazy. We were greeted by the mayor and everything, and we had a little celebration in the airport. And then closer to where my gym is, we had a little parade thrown by HEB, which was super sweet. The homecoming was nice.
What makes Houston a good city for athletes? A good sports city in general?
I think it's just because, it’s the best! Everyone in Houston has Houston pride, and we think we’re the best at everything we do. That’s kind of fun. And even a lot of artists come out of Houston—it seems like there are a lot of songs that talk about Houston. But it’s a nice place. Everyone knows it.
You've got a little bit of perspective now, a few months removed from the Games. What’s the most memorable part for you when you think back on it? What really sticks in your head?
The Olympics were great. But if we’re talking about [things] besides the Olympics, afterwards we went to New York, and we got to go to the top of the Empire State Building, where only so-called “celebrities” get to go, so that was pretty neat. And meeting the president was … cool. [Laughs.]
How are you adjusting to life after the Games?
I’d say I'm adjusting pretty well. I’m still super busy—not a lot of time spent at home. But I do see friends and family more frequently than last year, when I was training. So it's mellowed down in a way, but I'm still doing so much traveling.
Is the attention you’re receiving difficult to deal with? Is it something you’ve gotten used to?
I think I’ve gotten used to it, because I’ve been to the world championships, and that brings a lot of attention, as well. This one is just a lot more attention? But I think we’re all coping with it pretty well.
I’m sure there have been a few surreal moments—meeting the president being one of them—in the last few months. What are some things you’ve done since you’ve been back that you didn't expect you’d ever do?
We recently went to the Golden Globes. That was amazing. We walked the red carpet with other Olympians, which was a lot of fun. We got to go to the VMAs, the CMAs. I’ve been in a music video! Things like that, that you don't think you'll ever get to do, you start doing. So it’s kind of weird, in a way, but it’s once-in-a-lifetime.
What compelled you to write the book?
I wanted to write the book because everyone tells my story for me. But since it’s me, and I’m the one they’re talking about, I should get it in my own perspective, how it is, and tell the story right.
Are you naturally an introspective person? Was the process of putting your life down on paper difficult?
It was hard to remember a lot of the stories, detail by detail. But once you think on it, you’re like, “OK, this happened.” Because most of the time, if you’re in person, you don’t want to tell people too long of a story—you’re like, “long story short, this happened.” So you just really have to remember all those details.
You’re taking a break from training, is that right? What do the next few months hold?
Yes, I am. I’ve been nominated for the Laureus Award, so I’ll head to Monaco for that, at the beginning of February. And I'm on my book tour here in Houston. I still try to go and see the girls at the gym train and everything, say hi, what’s up. So I’m still doing an amount of things. Then I have my sponsor stuff that I still do, too.
Are you antsy to get back in the gym? Or are you still enjoying the break?
I think I’m still enjoying the break. Just because I had so many years put in it, it’s kind of nice to relax and watch the other girls train, and see how they’re doing. You really don't get that much time to do that, to live in the moment, whenever you’re training. So it’s just kind of a nice break.
What's your favorite place to go or thing to do when you’re back in Houston?
I just like hanging out with my friends, either at my house or theirs. Not really going out, but we love to go shopping, or go to the movies, or bowling. Fun stuff.
What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
The last movie I saw was Moana.
Is Houston a place where you could see yourself putting down roots when you get older?
I think so. I like the area and everything. I could possibly see me staying here. But it all depends.