Simone Biles opens up to PEOPLE about Larry Nassar and starting college this week
“I feel good and I feel a bit of relief because I don’t have to keep it in anymore,” the 20-year-old gymnastics superstar tells PEOPLE. “I have my family supporting me, friends and my group of people I rely on supporting me … But it’s not easy for any of us to go through.”
The gold medal-winning Olympian is gearing up to begin her first day of college on Thursday, and is looking forward to the premiere of her new Lifetime movie, The Simone Biles Story: Courage To Soar.
But as she begins several new chapters in her life, she says talking about her experience with Nassar is still difficult.
“I haven’t really opened up about it, so it was a hard subject for me to speak up about,” she tells PEOPLE. “Hopefully people realize that they’re not the only ones going through this situation. Hopefully I inspire them to come out and to not be ashamed about it.”
“For too long I’ve asked myself, ‘Was I too naive? Was it my fault?’ I now know the answers to those questions,” she wrote at the time. “No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.”
She opened up about the abuse in an emotional interview with Today’s Hoda Kotb on Wednesday morning, in which she praised Judge Rosemarie Aquilina for sentencing Nassar to up to 175 years in prison. She echoed the comments to PEOPLE, but adds that the ordeal isn’t over yet.
“It was very sweet of her to let all the survivors come forward and speak on their behalf,” Biles says of Aquilina. “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, an independent investigation that needs to be set to see why and how this happened for so long for anyone to really feel comfortable in the sport and get closure.”
Still, in the midst of the scandal, Biles is determined to move forward. The young gymnast has been named global ambassador of University of the People, a non-profit, accredited online university based in California. She is enrolled in the business administration program, per the university’s website.
“I always dreamed of going to college but decided to follow my gymnastics dreams full time, which didn’t make it possible for me,” Biles said in a statement posted on the site. “I had planned to attend UCLA, but had to defer because of my training schedule. I still want to pursue a college degree and the University of the People offers me the flexibility I need to fit in my studies around my career.”
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“With me being so busy with training, I don’t have a lot of time to attend a regular university, so University of the People offers me that opportunity, which I wouldn’t have otherwise,” she tells PEOPLE. “Now I can do online and train for the next Games, for the next world championships … I can take time to do both.
The Olympian has also launched the Simone Biles Legacy Scholarship Fund to make higher education accessible to foster children and others — “I feel like everyone deserves an opportunity and if I have one I want to be able to do that for others,” she says.
As if that weren’t exciting enough, Biles says she’s ecstatic about the Saturday premiere of her new movie, which was based off her 2016 book, Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance.
“It was amazing having [my book] sent to film and to live through that experience,” she gushes. “I’ve always wanted to see how people saw my gymnastics.”