Simone Arianne Biles is an American artistic gymnast. With a combined total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals, Biles is the most decorated American gymnast and is regarded by many to be one of the greatest and most dominant gymnasts of all time.
Biles was born on March 14, 1997, in Columbus, Ohio, the third of four siblings. Her birth mother, Shanon Biles, was unable to care for Simone or her other children – Adria, Ashley, and Tevin. All four went in and out of foster care.
In 2000, Biles’s maternal grandfather, Ron Biles, and his second wife, Nellie Cayetano Biles, began temporarily caring for Shanon’s children in the north Houston suburb of Spring, Texas, after learning that his grandchildren had been in foster care. In 2003, the couple officially adopted Simone and her younger sister Adria. Ron’s sister, Shanon’s aunt Harriet, adopted the two oldest children. Biles holds Belizean citizenship through her adoptive mother and refers to Belize as her second home. Biles and her family are Catholic.
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In 2012, Biles made the choice to switch from public school to home school, allowing her to increase her training from approximately 20 to 32 hours per week. She gained all of her secondary education as a homeschooler, graduating in the summer of 2015. Biles verbally committed to UCLA on August 4, 2014. She planned to defer enrollment until after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro; in November 2014 she signed her National Letter of Intent with UCLA. On July 29, 2015, she announced that she would turn professional and forfeit her NCAA eligibility to compete for UCLA. In January 2018, Biles was reported to have enrolled at the University of the People, an online college, to study business administration, and would become the university’s brand ambassador.
At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Biles won individual gold medals in all-around, vault and floor; bronze in balance beam; and gold as part of the United States team, dubbed the “Final Five”. Biles is also a five-time World all-around champion (2013–2015, 2018–2019), five-time World floor exercise champion (2013–2015, 2018–2019), three-time World balance beam champion (2014–2015, 2019), two-time World vault champion (2018–2019), a seven-time United States national all-around champion (2013–2016, 2018–2019, 2021), and a member of the gold medal-winning American teams at the 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Additionally, she is a three-time World silver medalist (2013 and 2014 on vault, 2018 on uneven bars) and a three-time World bronze medalist (2015 on vault, 2013 and 2018 on balance beam).
Biles is the gymnast with the most World medals (25) and most World gold medals (19), having surpassed Vitaly Scherbo’s record 23 World medals by winning her 24th and 25th, both gold, at the 2019 competition in Stuttgart. She is the female gymnast with the most World all-around titles (5). Biles is the sixth woman to win an individual all-around title at both the World Championships and the Olympics, and the first gymnast since Lilia Podkopayeva in 1996 to hold both titles simultaneously. She is the tenth female gymnast and first American female gymnast to win a World medal on every event, and the first female gymnast since Daniela Silivaș in 1988 to win a medal on every event at a single Olympic Games or World Championships, having accomplished this feat at the 2018 World Championships in Doha.
At the 2020 Olympic Games Biles performed the all-around during qualifications and helped the USA qualify to the team final in second place behind the athletes from Russia. Biles suffered numerous mishaps during the competition: she bounced entirely off the floor landing one of her tumbling passes, stepped one foot entirely off the landing mat during her Cheng vault, and took several large stumbles back on her balance beam dismount. Despite these mistakes, Biles still qualified to the all-around final in first place. She also qualified in first place to the vault final, advanced to the floor exercise final in second, and qualified to the balance beam and uneven bars finals. She was the only athlete to qualify to all individual finals.
Following her qualifications performance, Biles stated on Instagram that she was “[feeling] the weight of the world on [her] shoulders” and that she felt affected by the pressure of the Olympics.
During warm-ups for the first rotation of the team final, Biles balked on her Amanar vault mid-air, performing 1.5 twists instead of the expected 2.5. She repeated this in the competition, balking and performing the 1.5 twist with a large lunge and near-fall on the landing, and scored just 13.766 with a difficulty score of 5.0 (rather than the Amanar’s 5.8). She subsequently left the competition floor (although she returned to the floor a few minutes later) and withdrew from the rest of the team competition, citing mental health issues and explaining that she was inspired by fellow female Olympian Naomi Osaka, who had withdrawn from the Wimbledon competition that year for similar reasons. The USA team went on to win the silver medal behind the Russian Olympic Committee athletes.
On July 28, 2021, USA Gymnastics announced that Biles would withdraw from the finals of the individual all-around competition, again citing mental health concerns. Biles had noted that she was experiencing “the twisties,” a psychological phenomenon wherein a gymnast loses air awareness while performing twisting elements.
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