Simone Biles (1997- ), an American gynmast, won four gold medals and one bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She is not just the first Black American female gymnast to win four gold medals at a single Olympics, she is the first American female gymnast period.
Some mix her up with Gabby Douglas, but Biles is way better. At the 2015 World Championship (pictured above), Douglas won the all-round silver medal while Biles won the gold. But where others win by hundredths of point, Biles made two costly mistakes and still beat Douglas by more than a whole point! You did not see Biles at the 2012 Olympics because she was too young.
Mary Lou Retton, the top American female gymnast at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, says Biles is the “most talented gymnast I’ve seen in my life.”
Where Nadia Comaneci flipped once off the balance beam, Biles flips twice. (Part of why the US and Biles herself have become huge in gymnastics is because Comaneci’s trainers defected to the US. This will be their last Olympics.)
She has a stronger run and can jump higher, which means she is in the air longer and can do more. She can spin faster and land more firmly – and make it look easy and natural. Some top gymnast count to themselves when they are in the air to know where they are – she just knows. She can learn in days what it takes others months if not years.
Biles: “I kind of blow my own mind.”
She has even invented a move of her own, the Biles: a double backward somersault, followed by a half twist and a blind landing.
It helps that she has not grown much taller since 13 and has suffered no grave injuries, things that have sidelined other gymnasts.
Her style of gymnastics is more athletic or acrobatic-looking than the Soviet style common 30 to 40 years ago that was more like ballet. That comes from changes in scoring that take into account how hard a move is.
Biles was born in Columbus, Ohio. When she was two, her mother was sunk in drink and drugs and could no longer take care of her. She went into foster care. She grew up in Texas, where her grandfather and his second wife became her new father and mother. He is a retired air traffic controller, she is a nurse who is part owner of a chain of 14 nursing homes in Texas.
At age six Biles started to learn gymnastics. In 2013, some ten years later, she became world champion. Having outgrown her old gym, her parents built her a new one the size of a megachurch.
She now makes about $2 million a year and stands to make way more now that she has signed enorsement deals with Nike, United Airlines, Fanta, Special K Red Berries (not Wheaties) and others. She is charming and apolitical.
She wants to go to university at some point – and grow and inch or two! She is four foot eight inches tall (1.42m).
Thanks to MinnMom for suggesting this post.
– Abagond, 2016.
- Misty Copeland – the ballerina, also an amazingly quick learner.