What does a 19-year-old athlete do after becoming a four-time Olympic gold medalist and a three-time world all-around gymnastics champion? Publish a memoir, of course.
Simone Biles, who's already been hailed as "the world’s greatest female gymnast" before she even competed in the Olympics, made a major splash tidal wave at the 2016 Rio Games by winning the women’s individual all-around gold medal, earning the adoration of young female fans throughout the nation. And at a mere 4-foot-9, this petite Ohio native (who now calls Texas home), still delivered a massive, awe-inspiring performance that continues to captivate audiences of all ages and genders.
After achieving success and fame, however, Biles was ready to take on new challenge — encouraging other girls to dive into their own dreams. So, with the help of New York Times bestselling author Michelle Buford, Biles released her official autobiography, "Courage to Soar," late last year.
"I want people to reach for their dreams," announced Biles. "If you’re willing to put in a lot of work, and if you’re focused and determined, you can go really far. That doesn’t mean everything will happen overnight; for me, it took years of training and perseverance to reach my goals. But looking back on it now, I’m glad I didn’t give up."
"There’s so many people who have inspired me with their love and encouragement along the way — and I want to pass on that inspiration to readers," she added.
For more, Fox News Magazine spoke exclusively with Biles about her memoir "Courage to Soar," and what it was really like preparing for the Olympics. Plus, Biles opened up on the role faith plays in her success, and she revealed how her mother feels about her upcoming photos for the 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue:
FNM: What inspired you to share your story in a book like this one?
SB: I think what inspired me the most was that everyone else tells my story for me, but since this is my story, I felt that I should be the one to tell us. That’s what sparked it.
FNM: You started gymnastics at a later age than most. What was it about this sport that made you pursue it?
SB: It kind of happened by accident on a day-care field trip. We were supposed to go to the oil ranch that day, but it was storming, so we ended up at the gym down the street from the day care. I never heard about [gymnastics], but once I went in, I started flipping and copying the other girls. I just thought it was a lot of fun, so that’s when I joined. That was at 6 years old.
FNM: What would you say was the most challenging memory to revisit in this book?
SB: I think … going back to my childhood and foster care. I don’t remember too, too much. I wasn’t in foster care as long as some other kids. But I was so young. I just remember being with my siblings and there were certain rules.
FNM: Why was it important for you to explore this moment in the book?
SB: Well, I think it’s important for other kids to know my story, especially other foster and adopted kids. If they read this book, they’ll know that some professional athletes [like myself] had a tougher upbringing and nobody starts from scratch, you know? It’s important for them to realize that.
FNM: What was it like training for something as huge as the Olympics?
SB: It was a crazy process! (Laughs) Every day, I would walk into the gym and think, "Am I really training for the Olympics?" Like, how many people can say they’re actually doing that? It was pretty mind-blowing, to say the least. Every day, I would walk into the gym and just think it was a dream come true to just get the opportunity to do that.
FNM: How long were the training sessions?
SB: I trained for six hours a day: three in the morning, three in the afternoon. So yeah, my days were a little bit longer, but I still fit in school and everything.
FNM: Could you describe the moment you realized that you had "made it" as an athlete?
SB: I think it was … I was 14 or 15-years-old — whenever I made national team. Once I made national team and got assigned an assignment, that’s when I had that, ‘"Whoa, I made it" feeling. My career was starting.
FNM: Since your success, you’ve had the opportunity to meet many celebrities. Who would you say made you the most starstruck?
SB: Hmm … I think meeting Beyonce or the president. You see them all TV, and then once you meet them, you’re like, "Whoa, this is super cool!" They were both very sweet.
FNM: And who would you say was the most excited to meet you?
SB: When I was on "Ellen" I got to meeting Channing Tatum and he seemed pretty surprised to meet me!
FNM: Which has been the most difficult move for you to master as a gymnast?
SB: I think each event is different, but overall, bars were pretty difficult. I had to find the confidence within myself to do my routines and show my skills.
FNM: How long did it take for you to feel like you finally perfected it?
SB: I would say in 2014 or 2015. It took a while because I needed to have faith in myself. But I worked really hard on it and practiced every day.
FNM: Is there a specific move or routine that you’ve been working on these days?
SB: Well, right now I’m on a break, so not really.
FNM: After the Olympics, we don't blame you. But since then, you’ve become a huge inspiration. What’s one key piece of advice you would give to any girl on how they can pursue their dreams?
SB: I would say to write your goals down. Don’t ever move too fast, but [rather] pace yourself on making those goals and dreams come true because there will be baby steps you will need to make to get to it. I know it may seem like it’s just going from one end to the other, but there are baby steps involved.
FNM: In your book, you credit faith in playing an essential role in your courage to compete. Could you talk a little bit more about that?
SB: I go to church every Sunday. My mom, sister, and I would light a candle and pray. I would pray to St. Sebastian, patron of athletes. I would pray to him so he can keep me safe. I just felt like he was always there for me to pray and talk to. And you can always pray. I could be walking down the street and no one may know it, but I could be praying. It’s just super helpful for me.
FNM: Sports Illustrated recently released a photo of you from their upcoming Swimsuit Issue. What was going through your mind when you saw that image for the first time?
SB: Well, I had seen them in production, but I wasn’t sure which picture they were going to use. But my mom has approved all of them. Its super exciting for me that it’s finally coming out and it’s going to be in the [Swimsuit Issue] coming out in February.
FNM: Everyone knows you’re a world-class gymnast, but what’s another surprising talent or trick you've perfected?
SB: Hmm … I’d like to say … I don’t know, I feel like I’m really good at eating, but that doesn’t count! (Laughs). But … I am good with kids!