Feature | Artistic Gymnastics

Simone Biles challenges pressure of beauty standards in gymnastics

The four-time Olympic gymnastics champion doesn't want to be judged anymore. The American superstar will open the 2020 season at the World Cup in Tokyo in April. 

By Scott Bregman ·

Four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles has spent her entire life being judged.

And, now, she's over it.

The most decorated gymnast at the World Championships with 25 medals, Biles has of course dominated her sport. But behind the medals comes a frustration with her subjectively judged sport.

"In gymnastics... there is a growing competition that has nothing to do with performance itself. I'm talking about beauty," Biles, who will make her 2020 competition debut in April at the Tokyo World Cup, wrote in a Twitter post promoting her partnership with a Japanese cosmetic brand.

"I don't know why but others feel as though they can define your own beauty based on their standards."

Others' standards has been something Biles has consistently rejected in the sport she has pushed to new heights. At October's World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, she introduced a balance beam dismount so difficult that the international federation felt they had to award it a lesser value in order to not encourage other athletes to take on the risky element.

"In assigning values to the new elements, the [Women's Technical Committee] takes into consideration many different aspects; the risk, the safety of the gymnasts and the technical direction of the discipline," a statement from the International Gymnastics Federation read.

No matter, Biles still performed the element in order to add it to her sport's code of points under her name, despite its lower than expected value. The Houston, Texas native has four elements named after her.

"I've learned to put on a strong front and let must of it slide," Biles, who says her goal going into competitions is to be the "best Simone," said of others opinions. "Nobody should tell you or I what beauty should or should not look like."

That's advice she seems to have taken to heart, as the 22-year-old shares much of her life outside the sport via her Instagram account where she has more than three and a half million followers.

"I think it was finally realising that we are human, as well, and we do have lives outside of gymnastics," Biles told Olympic Channel in 2018. "It’s OK to be who you are and show the world that our lives aren’t just about gymnastics."

That life outside gymnastics ranges from posts about her longtime boyfriend, former U.S. national team member Stacey Ervin, her post-World Championships Belize getaway and even her latest piercing on her chest.

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Though inside the sport she has dominated for nearly a decade, Biles admits that she sometimes feels she's participating in a different kind of contest.

“In the sport of gymnastics, it all depends on how good we are. But at the end of the day, it is seen as a beauty competition: who’s the cutest, who’s the prettiest,” Biles told Teen Vogue. “I’ve realized it really doesn’t matter what you look like. It’s about who you are and how you compete."