Who is... Simone Biles
Simone Biles was too young to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, but the 4-foot-9 gymnast has completely dominated her sport since her senior debut in 2013. Not only is she the first female gymnast since 1974 to win four consecutive all-around titles at the U.S. national championships, but she’s also the first woman ever to be the all-around world champion three years in a row. Not to mention that she's won fourteen total world championships medals—the most ever won by an American woman.
Simone Biles was born on March 14th, 1997 in Columbus, Ohio. By the time she was three, it was clear that her biological mother, who struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, was unable to take care of Biles and her younger sister Adria. Her maternal grandfather, Ron, and his second wife, Nellie, stepped in and brought the pair to Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston—and sixteen years later, they’re simply “mom and dad” to their adopted daughters.
Young Biles was fearless, teaching herself to do back flips off her family’s mailbox before she even took a gymnastics class. It was a daycare field trip to a gym that led her to the sport—the six-year-old saw the older girls flipping and twisting and immediately started copying them. She began her training, and a year later her talent caught the eye of Aimee Boorman.
Boorman had never coached an elite gymnast before, which Biles said was an asset as the pair moved up the ranks of gymnastics.
"It was a learning process together. So I think that's what helped us both, because we were kind of both clueless about it. So we were just learning together."
Boorman is still by Biles’ side at every competition.
“I always say she’s like the second mom to me because she’s been there since I was like 8 years old, and so that’s 10 years that she’s always been by my side,” Biles said. “I’m very fortunate to have a coach that I got to stay with all this time. Every year the bond gets stronger and better and we understand each other more. And it’s like she can tell if I walk into the gym what kind of mood I’m in, what she has to fix for the practice I need or how I’m feeling. So it’s really nice to have someone that can just like read me just right off the bat when I walk in the gym.”
After a catastrophic performance at the 2013 Secret U.S. Classic—falls and mistakes on the first three events left Biles so mentally rattled that she chose not to even attempt a vault—no one, not even Biles herself, considered her a favorite to win the 2013 P&G Championships.
“It was just going downhill from there,” Biles said of the 2013 Secret Classic, “and I just thought it was the end of the world. Nothing was really going right and we couldn't figure out why. I guess I just wasn't in a very good mental place. Then after [Classics] I went to see a sports psychologist and he helped me a lot.”
Biles was a completely different gymnast at the P&G Championships. Still just sixteen years old and facing off against 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross, Biles showed the winning confidence, along with high-difficulty skills and faultless execution, that has become her competitive signature. She won the all-around gold medal and took silver medals on all four apparatuses: vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor.
Having proven herself as the best in the U.S., Biles starting building her reputation as the best in the world at the 2013 World Championships. Again outscoring Ross, along with 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Aliya Mustafina of Russia, Biles won the world all-around title by nearly a full point. She also qualified for all four event finals, which no American has done since Shannon Miller in 1991. She took home a gold on floor, a silver on vault and a bronze on balance beam—four total medals.
“One of my proudest moments was probably 2013 Worlds,” Biles said, “because I proved to myself that I could do things that I didn’t think I could. I guess I didn’t really believe everyone when they told me how good I was, and so for me to go out there and [win] I kind of started to believe it… I proved to myself that I do have the confidence to go out there and hit it like I do in practice.”
At the next year's world championships, she won all-around gold again but earned a more viral kind of fame due to the awards ceremony. When she was standing on the podium, silver medalist Larisa Iordache pointed out that there was a bee in Biles' bouquet—and Biles is terrified of bugs.