Simone Biles was born on March 14, 1997 in Columbus, Ohio. Her birth mother struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, so Simone and her siblings were placed in foster care when she was just a toddler. At age 6, Simone and her younger sister Adria were adopted by their maternal grandfather Ron Biles and his wife Nellie.
Growing up, Simone was incredibly energetic, always flipping around and jumping on furniture. Her parents decided she needed an outlet for her energy, so they enrolled 6-year old Simone in a daycare field trip to Bannon’s Gymnastix. It was love at first sight. Simone began taking lessons at Bannon’s, and it quickly became evident that she was a gifted athlete.
By age 8, Simone was training with Aimee Boorman, a former national team gymnast. Under Boorman’s expert coaching, Simone progressed rapidly. At age 10, she qualified for the U.S. Junior Olympics National Championships, where she placed 14th all-around. This early success fueled Simone’s passion and discipline for the sport.
Competitive Career and Early Success
Over the next few years, Simone rose quickly through the elite ranks of U.S. gymnastics. She placed 3rd all-around at the 2011 Junior Visa Championships and 2nd at the 2012 Visa Championships.
In 2013, her first year as a senior elite gymnast, 16-year-old Simone made history. At the P&G Championships, she not only won the all-around, vault and floor exercise titles, but she also posted the highest all-around score recorded at those championships under the new Code of Points scoring system.
Her success continued later that year when she was selected to the U.S. team for the 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium. There she helped the U.S. squad win gold in the team competition for the second consecutive time. Individually, Simone also brought home a gold medal on floor exercise and a bronze medal on balance beam.
Breakout Moment: 2015 World Championships
The 2015 World Championships held in Glasgow, Scotland proved to be Simone’s major breakout moment. There she completely dominated the competition, posting huge scores and winning gold medals in every single event:
- Team Competition
- Floor Exercise
- Balance Beam
No American gymnast, male or female, had ever won five gold medals at a single World Championships. At age 18, Simone succeeded where no one had before.
Her performances in Glasgow cemented her status as one of the all-time greats of the sport. Simone’s gravity-defying skills and incredible power made her nearly unbeatable.
Olympic Glory in Rio (2016)
Heading into the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Simone was the heavy favorite for multiple gold medals. Anything less than absolute domination would have been viewed as a disappointment given her recent World Championships performances.
The pressure was sky-high, and Simone initially struggled in qualifying. Errors on beam and bars jeopardized her spot in the all-around final. However, when it came time for the team competition, Simone delivered an epic performance to lead Team USA to gold.
In the all-around final, Simone put all doubts to rest by winning gold with a monstrous score nearly two points higher than silver medalist Aliya Mustafina. Her Olympic all-around title was the fourth consecutive for an American woman.
Simone went on to win three more gold medals in event finals – vault, floor, and team – tying the record for most Olympic gold medals in women’s gymnastics set by Soviet gymnast Larysa Latynina in 1956.
At just 19 years old, Simone achieved her childhood dream four times over. Her historic Olympic run will be remembered as one of the all-time iconic moments in gymnastics.
Post-Rio Difficulties and Triumphant Return
Following her superstar turn at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Simone understandably struggled with motivation. She took a year off from competition to promote her new book “Courage to Soar,” go on a national gymnastics tour, appear on “Dancing with the Stars,” and generally enjoy her newfound fame.
However, by early 2018, Simone had resumed serious training with eyes on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But both physical and emotional issues plagued her. She battled injuries to both knees in addition to dealing with the trauma of revelations about abusive team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual assaults against her and hundreds of other athletes.
Simone pressed on through the ups and downs. At the 2018 World Championships, she helped the U.S. squad capture the team title while earning individual medals on all events except bars:
- All-Around: Gold
- Vault: Gold
- Floor: Gold
- Beam: Bronze
Her performance in Doha showed that when healthy and in top form, Simone was just as dominant as ever.
Biles Takes Flight to Unprecedented Heights
The 2019 World Championships held in Stuttgart, Germany bore witness to the greatest gymnastics meet in history. Simone not only defended her all-around title, but she also debuted two incredible eponymous skills: a triple-twisting double tuck salto on floor and a double-twisting double tuck salto dismount off beam.
In Stuttgart, Simone captured five more gold medals to extend her record career World Championships medal count to 25:
- All-Around: Gold
- Team Final: Gold
- Vault: Gold
- Floor: Gold
- Beam: Gold
Most meaningfully, her performances qualified the U.S. team for the 2020 Olympics. Simone entered the yearlong delay caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 at the peak of her powers.
The Tokyo Olympics…and Beyond?
When the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games finally commenced in mid-2021, all eyes fixated on Simone. Could the G.O.A.T. cement her status by repeating as Olympic all-around champion and leading the U.S. to team gold?
Initially, it appeared so. In qualifications, Simone topped the all-around standings by a whopping margin of 1.5 points over teammate Sunisa Lee. However, early in team finals, Simone bailed out of her vault and sat down her 1.5 twisting Yurchenko, scoring just a 13.766.
Citing mental health concerns, she withdrew from the team final after vault. Without the sport’s biggest star, Team USA received huge performances from Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles, and Grace McCallum to capture silver, finishing behind the Russian Olympic Committee squad.
Simone also opted not to defend her individual all-around, vault, bars, and floor titles from Rio. In her place, Suni Lee stepped up to claim the coveted Olympic all-around gold.
After taking time to focus on her mental health, Simone later returned on the final day of competition for event finals on balance beam. There she captured a hard-fought bronze medal behind Chinese gymnasts Guan Chenchen and Tang Xijing.
While her experiences in Tokyo did not go as planned, Simone displayed tremendous courage in speaking openly about mental health issues impacting athletes. If Tokyo proves to be her final Olympics, the GOAT finished her legendary career with seven Olympic medals.
Simone Biles’ Legacy
Without question, Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast and among the best ever worldwide.
Her staggering career accomplishments include:
- 7 Olympic medals (2016 & 2020)
- 32 World Championship medals
- 25 World golds (most all-time)
- 19 World silver/bronze
- 7-time U.S. National Champion
Beyond the mind-blowing stats, Simone has brought unprecedented mainstream attention and popularity to gymnastics in the United States. Stars like Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin shone brightly for a time, but none have matched Simone’s sustained domination and fame over multiple Olympic cycles.
Thanks to her trailblazing skills, confidence, charisma and outspokenness on issues like sexual abuse and mental health, Simone has built a platform extending far beyond sports. She uses her immense influence to support good causes and inspire the next generation of athletes.
No matter if the Tokyo Games closed the book on Simone’s competitive gymnastics journey or not, her legend will echo for decades to come. The legacy of sustained greatness she etched bears comparison to icons like Michael Jordan, Serena Williams and Tiger Woods.
Simply put, Simone Biles flies in rarefied air alongside the greatest athletes of this or any generation.
Simone Biles has made an unparalleled impact on gymnastics with her trailblazing skills, record-demolishing performances, infectious charisma, and courageous stands for justice.
Her unprecedented haul of 32 World medals and 7 Olympic medals (and counting?) may never be matched. Even more enduring than the hardware is the inspiration she provides to all groups as both an elite Black athlete who refused to back down from speaking her truth and also as a beacon of light around mental health in sports.
At only 25 years of age, no one truly knows what the future holds for Simone. She may yet return to competition and write another thrilling chapter in her legendary career. Regardless, her permanence as an icon in women’s sports and American culture at large is assured. Generations to come will be flipping, twisting, leaping – and breaking even more barriers – in Simone Biles’ footsteps.
Who first introduced Simone Biles to gymnastics?
Simone’s parents first enrolled her in a gymnastics program at age 6 after noticing her extraordinary energy and tendency to constantly flip around and jump on furniture. She took part in a daycare field trip to Bannon’s Gymnastix and instantly fell in love with the sport.
How many gold medals has Simone Biles won at the World Championships?
Simone is the most decorated World Champion ever with 25 career gold medals as of 2022. She owns the all-time record for most World Championship golds by a gymnast.
What is Simone Biles best event?
Simone is excellent on all four events, but she is virtually unbeatable on vault. Her Amanar vault (Yurchenko 2 1/2 twists) is the most difficult performed by any female gymnast. She has also pioneered several innovative signature vaults like the Biles (Yurchenko 1/2 on, piked double backflip off) and Cheng (Yurchenko 1/2 on, 1 1/2 twist off).
Did Simone Biles win gold in every event at a single World Championships?
Yes! At the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow, Simone made history by capturing five gold medals – in the team competition, individual all-around, vault, balance beam, and floor exercise. No American gymnast had ever won five golds at a single World Championships meet.
How has Simone Biles impacted gymnastics?
Simone’s daring skills, high-flying stunts, charismatic presence, and use of her platform to speak out on issues like sexual abuse and mental health have made her an icon. She has brought unprecedented attention and interest to the sport in the United States. Young gymnasts today all look up to Simone as the ultimate role model. Her legacy will inspire generations to come.