Simone Biles makes everything look easy. She’s about to show you how wrong that is.
The four-time Olympic gold medalist will be the subject of the newest docuseries from Religion of Sports. Simone vs. Herself, announced Thursday morning, will begin airing this summer on Facebook Watch.
“I don’t think people get the intensity of how I train and what my life looks like,” Biles told USA TODAY Sports. “I think there is a sense of normalcy they’ll get to see. But they’ll also see the rigorous training. We’re training 34, 35 hours a week to compete for 3½ to five minutes.”
This is the third docuseries by Religion of Sports, which previously featured Tom Brady and Steph Curry. Biles was an easy choice because of her success – no other gymnast, male or female, has won more gold medals (19) or medals period (25) at the world championships – and because no athlete will command a larger spotlight at the Tokyo Olympics, Religion of Sports co-founder Gotham Chopra said.
Simone Biles will take you inside her training for the 2021 Summer Olympics in a new docuseries, Simone vs. Herself. (Photo: Handout)
But Chopra also was intrigued by all the challenges the 23-year-old Biles has already overcome.
She and her younger sister, Adria, wound up in foster care because of her biological mother’s struggles with substance abuse, and were eventually adopted by her paternal grandfather and his wife, Ron and Nellie Biles. She was among the more than 350 girls and young women sexually abused by Larry Nassar, and now carries the weight of knowing she is one of the few people who can force USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to make changes.
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She also has acknowledged struggling with depression, particularly after the Tokyo Games were postponed last year.
“As a filmmaker and storyteller, … you need a compelling character,” Chopra said. “The sports of it all is cinematic and amazing and beautiful and fun. But the complexity comes in who is this person, and she’s got an endless amount of that.
“The level of candor with which she talks through those things, and talks through the massive challenges and struggles and ongoing struggles – when you put her ongoing success in the context of that, I don’t know. I don’t know who you compare her to,” Chopra said. “She’s sort of in an arena all by herself.”
The series began filming in the fall of 2019, with the plan to have it premiere last summer, ahead of Tokyo. But then COVID happened.
Filming never stopped, Chopra said, but adjustments were made. Interviews that would normally have been done in person took place on Zoom. Instead of sending a camera crew to film Biles and her family at the holidays, she did it herself.
“We’re just integrating it into the story,” Chopra said. “It’s a documentary. Let’s capture these beats.”
Biles has a significant presence on social media – nearly 4 million followers on Instagram and more than 1 million on Twitter – and has already shared a lot about her life. Her dogs, her family, her new house, her boyfriend.
But those are small glimpses. Biles said she’s excited for fans to see what the extended view looks like – even the hard stuff.
“Getting to talk about different topics and really open up and share those details was harder because I didn’t do that outside of therapy,” she said. “It’s hard, but it’s gotten easier along the way.”
The project is also part of Biles’ effort to empower young girls. She hopes by watching the docuseries, girls will realize that even Olympic champions have their struggles, but the possibilities are endless if you’re willing to put in the work.
“I’m a normal human being,” Biles said. “I live in this world just like you guys, my days just look a little bit different. But I think people forget that elite athletes, we have feelings and still have emotions. We still have to get our (stuff) together on a daily basis.”
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