When Simone Biles competed at the 2021 US Classic wearing a white leotard decorated with a sequined goat, no one questioned the statement she was trying to make. Simone is the greatest gymnast of all time, and she’s totally owning it.
Stating the facts
It’s not at all that difficult to see why Simone Biles is the GOAT of gymnastics. You only need to look at her achievements. These are just some of the highlights of her stellar career:
- Won the US all-around championship seven times
- Won the US vault championship six times
- Won the US balance beam championship five times
- Won the US floor exercise championship five times
- Has 25 World Championships medals, the most in the history of gymnastics
- Has 19 World Championships gold medals, the most that any gymnast has earned thus far
- Earned five medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, four of which are gold.
If these stats don’t represent the work of a champion, then what does?
The medals are only part of the story.
Simone Biles’ medal count tells only part of her story. After all, medals don’t always make a champion. As Simone wrote in her autobiography, her journey to the top of her game mattered more.
Simone was a child of adversity. Her birth mother, Shanon Biles, got addicted to drugs and alcohol when Simone was just a toddler. As such, she and her three siblings were neglected, with very little to eat, and often left alone at home with no adult to watch over them.
When she was barely two years old, Simone and her siblings were taken away by social services and placed in a foster home. At the time, her youngest sister Adria was only four months old. The social worker in charge of the siblings contacted her grandfather, Shanon’s father Ron Biles.
After consulting with his lawyers, Ron flew to Columbus, Ohio, and took his grandchildren back to Spring, Texas. Despite Shanon’s attempts to take back her kids, she ended up losing her parental rights. Ron and his second wife Nellie adopted Simone and Adria. At the same time, Ron’s sister Harriet took in Simone’s older siblings Ashley and Tevin.
It was Nellie who eventually got Simone into gymnastics. At first, Nellie thought gymnastics was a safe outlet for Simone to burn up her energy. So she signed up her six-year-old granddaughter for recreational classes at Bannon’s Gymnastix. It was at Bannon’s where Simone caught Aimee Boorman’s eye. Aimee took Simone under her wing, and the rest is history.
Owning her greatness
Talent can only take an athlete so far, and Simone Biles clearly knows it. Thus, with her coaching team’s guidance and with her family’s support, she worked and continues to work hard to reach the exalted place she’s at in gymnastics.
But even the greatest of them don’t have it so good all the time. In 2018, Simone revealed that she was one of the many women that former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused. She also shared some of the negative experiences she had while training with the national team at the Karolyi Ranch. These included stealing food from the cafeteria with her teammates because they were hungry and on a carefully monitored diet.
At the 2021 US Classic, where she wore her white leotard with the sequined goat, Simone performed a Yurchenko double pike vault. It was the first time that a female gymnast completed this move in a competition. Yet, despite this historic record, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) undervalued this feat for reasons undisclosed. To a casual observer, it would seem like FIG is intent on raising the concrete ceiling for athletes like Simone.
Simone doesn’t mind, however. She knows she’s the greatest, and she doesn’t shy away from declaring it. She’s aware that she inspires girls, especially Black girls, to aspire to excellence as she does. And she will continue to shatter the concrete ceiling to rubble because she can.