The sport of gymnastics is extremely competitive, especially on the women’s side. And over the last 30 years, the United States has dominated the sport. With so many talented female gymnasts in the country, it can be hard for one to stick out. But Simone Biles certainly does.
The native of Spring, Texas began training in gymnastics at age 6. The young prodigy made her first Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. The pint-sized phenom has now become the most decorated female gymnast of all time. Here’s a look at how she did it.
Born Into Difficult Circumstances
Simone Biles was born in Columbus, Ohio in March of 1997 into circumstances that weren’t ideal. Her mother, Shanon and her father both suffered from substance abuse problems. Simone and her siblings were placed in foster care.
They didn’t stay there for long, though. Simone’s Grandfather Ronald and his wife Nellie took custody of the gymnast and her sister. Biles grew up in the Houston suburb of Spring, Texas and got into gymnastics at an early age.
A Fortuitous Field Trip
Today, Simone Biles is recognized as one of the greatest gymnasts in the history of the sport. Her foray into gymnastics began when she was 6 years old and she went to a gym on a daycare field trip.
Her aptitude for the sport was obvious and coaches suggested that she begin training. Biles began an optional training program at Bannon’s Gymnastix. Simone’s coach was Aimee Boorman who later became her instructor at both a national and an Olympic level.
The First Taste Of Success
Gymnasts who are going to be Olympic level athletes often have their talent discovered at a young age. Simone Biles was no different. She competed in her major tournament at the American Classic in 2011.
During the meet, the future superstar finished 1st in the vault and the balance beam. Biles competed again at the American Classic in 2012, winning the vault again. Following her tremendous performance, Simone was named to the US Junior National Team by Marta Karolyi.
More Time For Training
Being a star level gymnast is not for the faint of heart. The sport requires an incredible commitment to training, eating properly and staying mentally strong. Simone’s parents realized she had an aptitude for the sport and that it was going to require incredible sacrifice.
When Simone turned 15 years old, she stopped going to public school and began to receive her education at home. This extra time allowed her to dedicate 32 hours to training each week rather than 20.
A Fantastic 2013
Now that Biles had been selected for the US National Junior team, she began to compete on the world level. Her first international tournament was the American Cup where she finished 2nd behind teammate and future viral superstar, Katelyn Ohashi.
She then had a breakthrough at the USA Gymnastics National Championships where she finished 1st in front of former gold medalist Kyla Ross. Biles was also declared the winner of the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships held in Antwerp.
2014 Is Another Successful Year
Biles had to sit out the first couple of 2014 events due to a shoulder injury. When she returned, though, she was again dominant. Simone won her first event at the US Classic in Chicago.
The superstar gymnast then took home her 2nd straight World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Nanjing, China. The win put Simone in special company as she became only the third woman to win the tournament joining American Shannon Miller and Russian Svetlana Khorkina.
The Playing Field Is Pretty Crowded
One of the reasons that Biles’ continued dominance was so surprising had to do with the incredible talent she had to compete against. Simone often competed against Kyla Ross who won gold in 2012 and Aly Raisman who had taken home bronze the same year.
Biles also had to go up against a number of up and comers who would become big names in the sport. She regularly competed against Gabby Douglas who became and Olympic teammate and Maggie Nichols who regularly broke records at Oklahoma State.
2015 Is A Year Of Threepeats
2015 showed gymnastics fans that not only was Biles a force to be reckoned with but that the United States women on a whole were ready to dominate. Simone took home her 3rd consecutive championship at the US Nationals.
Biles and the US Team then took on the world at the Artistic Championships in Glasgow, Scotland. Not only did Simone dominate and take home her 3rd straight title, but she also helped the American women win the team championship as well.
UCLA Wins The Recruitment War
With Biles taking home tournament after tournament, there were obviously a number of schools asking the superstar to compete for them. Simone soon declared that she would attend UCLA and join their storied women’s gymnastics team.
Unfortunately for UCLA, Biles would never actually attend the school. She did not plan on enrolling in school until after the 2016 Olympics. After her explosive debut in the Rio De Jainero games, Biles turned professional and decided to forgo her college career.
Simone Is Hacked
Unfortunately for athletes, the more well known you become, the more likely it is that someone nefarious will try to take you down. Biles experienced this when the Russian espionage group, Fancy Bear, hacked into her medical records.
The group revealed that Biles has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and that she takes medication. There was no big deal in the end though as Simone had already received a therapeutic use exception for her medication.
A Tuneup For The Big Games
With her dominant performance over the last couple of years, there was little doubt that Simone Biles would be a member of the US Olympic Team. There were, however, plenty of tournaments where she could tune-up for the big event.
The first of these events was the Pacific Rim Championships where Biles won the all-around tournament. Simone then won the US National Championships for the 4th time in a row defeating teammate Aly Raisman.
Simone Takes The Gold
Simone Biles had been dominating the international gymnastics scene for years. When she finally got her shot on the world’s biggest stage, the results were pretty much the same. The gymnast began by taking home gold in both floor exercise and the vault.
To cap off her phenomenal time in Rio, Simone also took home the all-around gold medal. Biles not only won the all-around medal, but she also did it by quite a bit, finishing ahead of Aly Raisman.
The Team Also Takes Gold
Anyone who had been paying attention to women’s gymnastics knew that the United States was taking a loaded team to Rio in 2016. The team of Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian was experienced and talented.
Simone was the only gymnast of the 5 to compete in all 4 events. The 2016 squad, like in 2012, took home the team gold medal and it was not much of a competition as they defeated the Russians by 8 points.
The Final Five Become Media Darlings
The 2012 Olympic team was referred to as the Fierce Five. The 2016 medal team also received a catchy nickname as they were called the Final Five. The team name had a dual meaning.
The team would be the last gold medal winner to be made up of 5 participants as 2020 teams will only feature 4. The team would also be the last one put together by coach Marta Karolyi. The girls made regular appearances on late-night shows and reality television.
A Brief Hiatus
Most people will never go through the sacrifices Olympic athletes must go through to get on the medal stand. That sacrifice can be even more overwhelming when the athlete is still a teenager.
Biles, after competing non-stop for many years, decided that she would take time off from competition for the entire year of 2017. Simone planned on taking the time to mentally reset and spend time with her family. She also wrote a book called Courage to Soar with Michelle Burford.
A Time to Dance
With 2017 being a year in transition, Simone had the opportunity to do some other interesting things. Her Olympic teammate Laurie Hernandez had won Dancing with the Stars season 23 and Biles decided to try her hand at dancing during season 24.
Gymnasts obviously have a built-in advantage when it comes to dancing competitions and Simone and partner Sasha Farber were considered early favorites. While the duo achieved a fair bit of success, finishing in 4th place, they failed to win it all.
A Change In Coaching
One constant in Simone’s career had always been her coach Aimee Boorman. Boorman began serving as Biles’ trainer as the way back in 2005 when the gymnast was only 8 years old. But the pair split in 2017 when Boorman took a job as the Executive Director of Evo Athletics.
Biles found her next coach in artistic gymnastics specialist Laurent Landi. Landi came with an impressive recommendation as he had served as the trainer for fellow American gold medalist Madison Kocian.
2018 Means Another Title
Simone came off of her hiatus early in 2018. She first had to deal with a health problem that came up prior to the World Championships in Qatar. The athlete was found to have a kidney stone. She competed despite the pain.
Competing for the all-around title, Simone had a number of trips and falls. The judges, however, gave her credit for attempting much more difficult routines than her competition. Biles was named all-around world champion for the 4th time.
The Most Decorated Gymnast Ever
With all that she has accomplished so far, it can be easy to forget that Simone is still just 23 years old. Of course, Biles and the US team have their sights set on the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
But before that, there are still many tournaments left to win. Simone and the United States women captured the 2019 World Championships and Biles again won the all-around title. With this win, she became the most decorated female gymnast in the history of the sport.
In addition to her unprecedented success in gymnastics, Simone Biles has also found a partner in love. And her boyfriend, Stacey Ervin Jr. has a special understanding of what life is like for her. Ervin Jr. was also a decorated gymnast who won a National Championship at Michigan in 2013.
Simone even helped her man, who’s she’s been together with since 2017, get a job with the WWE. The pair often dotes on each other over their social media feeds with Ervin Jr. congratulating Biles on her recent World Championship.