Simone Biles could win five gold medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but some are already calling her the greatest gymnast ever. She was too young to qualify for the 2012 Olympics but, since 2013, the 4-foot-9 powerhouse has dominated her sport.
United States’ Simone Biles trains on the floor exercise ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
Biles has won the all-around in the last three world championships and the last four U.S. championships. In just three years, she has won 10 world gold medals — 14 overall, the most ever for a U.S. female gymnast. She has also won every all-around competition she’s entered since August 2013.
Biles was born on March 13, 1997, in Columbus, Ohio. Her biological mother struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and was unable to take care of Biles and her younger sister, Adria. When Biles was 5 years old, her maternal grandfather, Ron, and his wife, Nellie, brought the girls to their home in Spring, Texas. They have been their guardians ever since.
When Biles was 6, she went on a daycare field trip to a gym. She imitated the other gymnasts and immediately caught the attention of the coach, who sent home a letter requesting that Biles join gymnastics. She was a natural talent and soon after paired up with coach Aimee Boorman, her longtime coach.
“Sometimes I forget how incredible she is, because I’ve known her the majority of her life and I work with her every day,” Boorman told USA Today. “So it’s just what she does and it’s who she is, and that hasn’t changed through all the years. She just has a lot more medals.”
Despite her swift rise to fame and growing expectations, the 19-year-old Texan continues to focus on just being herself and enjoying the moment. Biles is rarely seen without a smile on her face, and clearly loves her sport. Her routines are consistently more technically difficult than her competitors; she can make small mistakes and still dominate the competition.
United States’ Simone Biles trains on the vault ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
For example, one of the signature moves from her floor routine is so difficult it is simply known as The Biles. It consists of two backflips with her body fully extended followed by a half-turn into a forward facing landing.
Beyond her technical prowess, it is Biles’ ability to capture her audience that sets her apart. When she captured her fourth national title last month in St. Louis, Biles spotted 2008 Olympic gold medal winner Shawn Johnson in the stands, and gave her a playful wink.
It’s that spirit that landed Biles sponsorships with Nike, Hershey’s and Core Power before even competing in a single Olympic event. She is ready to lead the U.S. women to gold in Rio, and claim her place in history as possibly the greatest of all time.