A Conversation with Simone Biles and Nina Derwael: Reflections on 10 Years Since Antwerp World Gymnastics Championships

Before the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, everyone wanted to speak to Simone Biles – the best gymnast ever. The American only accepted Sporza’s request.

To make the conversation even more unique, none other than Nina Derwael – the best Belgian gymnast ever – asked the questions for us.

“I’m glad to see you,” Biles beams, when our injured compatriot walks into the room. “You had surgery, right? You look good.”

Derwael opens by asking what it feels like to be back in Antwerp, the place where Biles competed in her first World Gymnastics Championships ten years ago.

“It feels a bit surreal to be here again,” Biles says. “To be back in the same room is very exciting and fun.”

“I remember being terrified. It was my first World Cup in my first year in the elite. My coaches told me to have fun, but all I remember is a blur. Only the crowd, which really cheered me up, stuck with me.”

Who else was in the stands at the time? A 13-year-old Nina Derwael.

“I was there,” our Olympic champions laugh in front of Biles. “It was special because I had never heard of you before and you showed everyone home. It was great to see.”

Biles and Derwael look at the images from 10 years ago together.

“I was still wearing my brace,” the American grins. “However, I absolutely wanted to get rid of it before the World Cup started.”

Although the gymnastics phenomenon has great memories of that edition of the World Cup.

“I then left Antwerp as world all-round champion. I didn’t see that coming at all, because I had no expectations for it. When I saw the scores, I thought: “Have I won? That can’t be right!” I thought I wouldn’t even finish in the top 6.”

“The starting gun of my career sounded in Antwerp,” Biles puts it. “When I arrived here, I was a nobody. Then I gained confidence as a gymnast.”

Since then, the status of the American has changed. As well as her character.

“I was very stubborn then. I am less so now, because I am more mature. Other than that, not much has changed, except my age,” she laughs.

What also did not change: her shiny earrings that she received as a souvenir from her mother.

“I’ve been wearing them for 10 years. I used to be afraid to wear them less because they were so expensive. Now I can’t wait to shop for some more diamonds.”

2023-10-02 22:32:29
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