Mentally, the past five years have been what she called “a long journey.” When the Olympics were postponed from 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, Biles curled up in a corner of the gym’s locker room and cried. She didn’t want to be associated with U.S.A. Gymnastics any longer than she had to.
One of her coaches, Cecile Landi — who is serving as her personal coach in Tokyo — coaxed Biles to take time off: go on vacation, look for a bigger house, get a hot tub, relax.
The suggestion allowed Biles to savor the bigger world around her. She bought a house in Spring, Texas, and made it her own with the help of one of her best friends, Kayla Rivers, who is an interior designer. They put together mood boards, with the overarching theme being anything luxurious and glam.
The relaxed, grown-up Biles also got herself a boyfriend, Jonathan Owens, a safety in the N.F.L. for the Houston Texans. They met when she sent him an Instagram direct message last summer and have been inseparable. At first, he had no clue who she was. He is still floored that she is featured on TV commercials and that girls squeal when they see her in public and ask for a selfie.
In February, she and Owens flew to Belize, where Nellie Biles is from, and took a couples vacation, riding on Jet Skis and swimming with sharks. They sipped cocktails and celebrated being young and in love.
Biles has no idea what she’ll do after gymnastics. Work in her gym? Coach in college? She is excited about her next chapter, but it scares her. Before that, though, she has to perform at the Olympics for the public that adores her and the sport that might have destroyed her.
“It’s like, OK, get here and be done,” Biles said of her gymnastics career. “You want it to come, but you also don’t want it to end.”