Olympic Gymnastic Champion
From a troubled childhood to the fame and achievement that came from her continued success, in being a champion gymnast and Olympic competitor, Simone Biles has long been an example of admirable accomplishment.
In March, 1997, Simone Biles was born in Columbus, Ohio. She and her sister Adria were raised by their grandfather Ron and grandmother Nellie since their mother struggled with substance abuse. The girls were eventually adopted by Ron and Nellie – whom they called “Mom” and who continued to support and encourage her involvement in athletics. Said Simone about her grandmother: “She encourages me and never lets me feel down about something for too long.”
Biles discovered her abilities at an early age. According to the official USA Gymnastics website, she visited a gymnastics center on a field trip with her daycare group. “While there I imitated the other gymnasts,” she later said, “and Coach Ronnie noticed. The gym sent home a letter requesting that I join tumbling or gymnastics.” Very soon, Biles was on her way to developing those natural gifts.
By 2007 Simone was competing and soon advanced to higher levels as she continued to advance, winning many high level competitions. In 2013 as she continued to advance, she won gold at the world competition level, the first African American athlete to do so. She explained that she hoped this last victory would be an inspiration to other youngsters. “I think it inspires a lot of little girls out there to go into the gym and train harder.”
In 2014 she took both U.S. and world titles in the all-around competition. She also won gold in the different types of gymnastic exercises – the vault, floor exercise, balance beam as she scored at the Secret U.S. classic that same year. She also developed and displayed what would become her signature move – on the floor routine it was a double-flip with a half twist.
Then in 2015 Simone achieved a record 10 gold medals in international competition as she became the first woman to win her third consecutive all-around title. At that time she resumed training at a gymnastics’s center owned by her family near Houston, Texas. In July 2016 she won new titles in floor exercise and vault as she achieved a spot on the 2016 Olympic team.
In August, 2016 Simone led the U.S. gymnastics team to achieve the gold in other competitions and became the first woman in 20 some years to win high Olympic all around and also world titles.
After a brief hiatus in 2017, Simone resumed training and her high ratings in her sport. Then in August 2018 she achieved all four events at the national Gymnastics Championship competition. She continued to win high ratings in world competition, and achieved a record setting 25 world championships.
Taking some time off from gymnastics, Simone appeared on the television program “Dancing with the Stars” and though she impressed the judges, she was eliminated in the semi-finals.
In January 2018 Simone made a sad announcement that she along with other young women had been molested by a former USA Gymnastics team physician. He had just been convicted of various offenses and was sentenced to many years in prison. She wrote about her experience. “Please believe me when I say it was a lot harder to first speak those words out loud than it is now to put them on paper. For too long I’ve asked myself. ‘Was I too naive? Was it my fault?’ I now know the answers to those questions. No, no, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belonged to Larry Nassar, USAG and others.”
There was more heartache when in 2019 she learned her brother had been arrested and charged with a triple homicide. “My heart aches for everyone involved, especially for the victims and their families. There is nothing that I can say that will heal anyone’s pain, but I do want to express my sincere condolences to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy.”
Then in May, 2021 Simone became the first woman to achieve a particular gymnastics’s move usually attempted by male gymnastics. It consists of a round off onto the springboard, followed by a back handspring onto the vault and ends with a piked double back-flip for the landing.
However, competing at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, set for 2021 proved more challenging. Simone helped the U.S. Team during the qualification stages though she did suffer some minor injuries. However, Simone announced that she would not compete in several events because of mental stress. It was called a “continued mental block” and she explained the issue was that she was experiencing “the twisties.” Other gymnasts had also had the problem that occurred when the gymnast lost “air awareness while performing twisting elements”, according to one source. Many other athletes praised her for putting her mental health over athletic achievement.
She later returned to compete on the balance beam and won a bronze medal. “It wasn’t easy pulling out of those competitions,” she said, “People thought it was easy but I physically and mentally was not in the right head space and I didn’t want to jeopardize my health and my safety because at the end of the day it’s not worth it. My mental and physical health is above all medals that I could ever win…I wasn’t expecting to walk away with the medal. I was just going out there doing this for me.”