By Jessica Dortch
AFRO News Editor
Simone Biles exploded onto the scene when she represented the United States at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Joined by an all-star team of her fellow gymnasts, dubbed “The Final Five,” Biles walked away a champion, winning a total of five medals, four gold and one bronze. Now, at just 23-years old Biles is the most decorated gymnast in the country and the third most decorated gymnast in the world.
It is clear that Biles was destined to be a champion but there were moments in her life that she didn’t feel like one. She was born in Columbus, Ohio and raised in Spring, Texas. After spending some time in foster care due to her biological mother’s struggles with substance abuse and addiction, her grandparents, Ronald and Nellie Biles, adopted her and her sister Adria.
Shortly after the 2016 Olympics, Biles appeared on the 24th season of Dancing With the Stars. In an interview with the Today Show, Biles opened up about her grandparents, whom she now calls mom and dad. “My parents saved me,” Biles said. “They’ve set huge examples of how to treat other people, and they’ve been there to support me since day one. There’s nothing I could say to them to thank them enough.”
When it came to gymnastics, Biles was a natural. On a field trip to a local gymnastic center, Biles was seen imitating the other gymnasts and a coach at the center noticed. She received a letter shortly thereafter, inviting her to join and the rest is history.
In 2007, she began competing and quickly climbed the ranks, and less than five years later she placed in the all-around at the American Classic. After that, she established herself as a force to be reckoned with, smashing every glass ceiling in her path. In 2011, she became the first African American woman to win gold in the all-around at the P&G Championships.
Biles continued crushing the competition and became an Olympic hopeful. It was her spunky floor performance, that she is famous for, that earned her a spot on the United States’ all-female Olympic gymnastics team, known as “The Final Five,” in honor of their coach’s retirement that same year.
If you watched the 2016 Olympics, as many Americans did, then you would know that whenever The Final Five: Laurie Hernandez, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Madison Kocian and Biles took the floor, they stole the show. The team brought some much needed girl power to the games that will go down in history.
Recently, Biles made headlines earlier this month when she called out the “toxic culture” of beauty standards, a competition in which the Olympic gold-medalist said in a statement she did not sign up for. “Today I say I am done competing vs. beauty standards and the toxic culture of trolling when others feel as though their expectations are not met…because nobody should tell you or I what beauty should or should not look like,” Biles wrote in a statement she posted in a tweet.
As a woman who has achieved so much in such a short time, Biles continues to be a role model for young girls. She is outspoken, stands her ground and completely embraces herself, flaws and all. Her story is one of an overcomer. Through sheer determination, hard work and the foundation of a solid support system, she was able to realize her potential and she inspires others to do the same.
In regards to upcoming competitions, the COVID-19 crowd restrictions caused the 2020 Olympics to be postponed, and Biles, who was looking forward to adding more medals to her collection before retiring, hinted in an interview with 60 minutes that she may not be up for the challenge. “I just sat there and I was like, ‘I really don’t know how I’m gonna do this. Like, another year out? I don’t think it’s possible for me at this point mentally,’” Biles explained.
With every venture and opportunity she seizes, Biles builds on her blossoming success. Although she may be considering an early retirement from the very thing that catapulted her into the international spotlight, there will be many great things that come from the likes of Miss Simone Biles.