(Reuters) – Simone Biles recently resumed training for the first time in over a year with her eyes set squarely on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics where one of the greatest gymnasts of all time expects to be a mentor on the U.S. team.
Biles, whose four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Games capped a run of dominance unlike anything the gymnastics world has seen, did not say whether she felt she could repeat that success in Tokyo but did acknowledge her changing role.
“It’s very important to be a mentor, especially if we have any newcomers and to show them the ropes and tell them that it’s going to be okay and boost their confidence on a stage that large,” Biles, 20, said in a telephone interview from Cincinnati on Friday.
“So I feel like that’s my role going into these next few years, being a mentor during championships and worlds and all of those international meets before the Games again.”
Biles has been an elite gymnast since 2011 and after taking a break to enjoy life away from the gym, she is now training and planning to make her return at the U.S. Classic in late July.
She will compete on the balance beam and uneven bars when she makes her competitive comeback but will add floor and vault a few weeks later at the national championships.
According to Biles, she still has all her skills and while getting back to her routine was not incredibly hard it did come with its fair share of challenges.
“The first day (back) I was doing some skills and it was going pretty smoothly but then it all catches up to you and by the third day I could barely walk. So that was no fun,” said Biles. “But now it’s been pretty good.”
For Biles, her plan all along was to take time off exploring the world with family and friends after Rio with the ultimate goal of returning fresher, both physically and mentally, before resuming training.
By the time the Tokyo Olympics roll around Biles will be 23, which is considered rather old by elite women’s gymnastics standards, but she is not letting that deter her.
She hopes that by having avoided for over a year the wear and tear that intense training takes on a body it will allow her to continue competing at a high level for a few more years.
Biles said she expects the Tokyo Games to be her final competition and while she would love to go out on top she was not ready to unveil her goals.
“It’s kind of hard to set a bar only because I know what other people expect and what I have set for myself and sometimes that doesn’t link up eye to eye,” said Biles, who is promoting Hershey’s Gold, the fourth flavor unveiled in the history of the chocolate maker.
”So it’s kind of like finding the balance between pleasing everybody and also doing what I love to do and making my goals.
“But it’s also very different because I am older, it’ll be a new time coming, the rules have changed a little bit as well so we will just have to see.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis