Lovers of competitive gymnastics got an incredible treat last Saturday — the return of Simone Biles to the competition floor. Biles left her competitors in the dust at the Core Hydration US Classic, her first gym meet in over two years, winning by five whole points and finishing it off with her historic Yurchenko double pike vault.
Those who love gymnastics, the Eurovision and Israeli pop music got an extra special surprise, however, because as the 26-year-old athlete was performing her flawless floor routine, pulling a signature Biles move, the song playing in the background was Noa Kirel’s “Unicorn.” The pop tune earned the young Israeli star a very respectable third place this year at the popular televised European song competition.
The tune Biles performed to was an altered, instrumental rendition of the song, but the middle eastern beats, rousing violins and catchy bass were unmistakable. Biles was absolutely in her element as she ended her routine with the instrumental interlude during which Kirel, a gifted dancer, showed off her own moves, asking Europe “Do you want to see me dance?” on that Liverpool stage back in May.
While so many of us would’ve been content to let this country’s greatest female gymnast rest on her laurels and never compete again, one thing is clear: We’ll never say no to seeing Simone Biles’ moves. The cheering crowd at the event, which included her visibly emotional and teary-eyed parents, concurred.
After hearing that Biles used her song on the floor, Kirel said she was “so excited and shocked.”
“She made history and she’s amazing and it’s so moving to me because she really exemplifies the values that this song represents, this is one of the wildest things that has ever happened to me,” she shared in a video message in Hebrew.
Kirel’s song, about a mythical creature rising against the odds, is the perfect choice for Biles’ return to the floor. The last time we saw her preform at a gymnastics events, it was during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where the seven-time Olympic medalist (including four golds!) decided to withdraw from the competition a quarter of the way through. Biles said she had “the twisties” and struggled to get her body and mind in sync.
Some unjustly admonished her for backing out so late in the game, but it was an incredibly important statement from Biles, who has multiple awe-inspiring gymnastics moves named after her. The young athlete showed so many of us by example the importance of putting your health and wellbeing first, no matter the stakes — because let’s face it, there are few bigger stakes than the actual Olympics.
Biles became, unwittingly, a mental health advocate, a role she’s embraced in the two years in which she stopped competing — perfectly embodying the Jewish value of pikuach nefesh.
“Unicorn” is all about having the power to be unique, to stand up to those “calling [you] names,” as many did to Biles after the Olympics. In the song, Kirel dares us to change the course of history, referring, perhaps, to the fraught political situation in Israel. Biles herself truly changed the course of gymnastics history — she is the most decorated American gymnast ever, and she’s dared moves few have dreamed of in her now decade-long career. And just like the song’s lyrics, she was absolutely “phenomenal” — and we can definitely call her “queen.”
“Everything has fallen into place. I feel really good about where I am right now, mentally and physically. There are some things to work on in my routines, but for the first meet back, I would say it went pretty well,” Biles said about the competition which qualifies her for the U.S. National Championships later this month.
Yet those already hoping that it’ll business as usual for Biles going into the 2024 Paris Olympics might be disappointed. Biles did concede that “so far, it’s heading in the right direction,” but she won’t back down from the precedent she’s set in being an advocate for a healthier approach to work-life balance.
“I know everybody is just like — when you get married, they ask you when you’re having a baby. You come to Classics, they’re asking you about the Olympics,” said Biles, who married NFL player Jonathan Owens this May.
“I still have to work on myself. I’m still going to do my therapy. I’m still going to put myself first,” she declared.
Amen to that! We’re so glad this unicorn is back on the floor, but we’ll be cheering her on, no matter what.