Simone Biles' medal count includes four gold medals in the women’s individual all-around competition, women’s floor exercise final, women’s vault and team all-around.
At only 4 feet 9 inches tall, Simone Biles is tiny in stature, but she’s pure power in motion. Last summer, the whole world stopped and took notice as the 19-year-old tumbled, leaped and vaulted her way into the record books, becoming the most decorated gymnast in American history. While many were introduced to Biles’ 1,000-watt smile and high-flying floor routines during the Olympics, the Ohio native has been quietly dominating the sport for years. Beginning in 2013, the teen won back to back to back all-around world titles. And by the time the Rio Games were over in August, Biles had racked up even more Olympic bling—one bronze and four gold medals—and an impressive new title to go along with her spoils: the greatest American gymnast of all time.
Being crowned the GOAT before your 20th birthday would go to just about anyone’s head. But not Biles; she continues to remain humble.
BREAKING: Star gymnast Simone Biles voted AP Female Athlete of the Year after golden run at Rio Olympics. pic.twitter.com/YxtIRIsTD1
— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) December 26, 2016
“To me, it still feels normal because it’s what I do,” she tells while on the road with Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions. “I feel privileged and honored to go out there and represent the United States every single time.”
A consummate professional. Simone Biles says she wasn’t nervous during her Olympic run because she had put in so much work to get there. “At that point you’re so ready that it’s like autopilot,” she says. On the other hand, her mother, Nellie Biles, had an entirely different experience.
“I have always been nervous when I watch Simone compete,” Mrs. Biles shares. “I was extremely proud that she was there to represent her country because that’s the No. 1 thing that Simone has always talked about. But I was just a nervous wreck.”
Simone reassured her mom she could handle the pressure.
“Simone told me many times not to worry about her. She also would tell me that she was ready,” Mrs Biles recalls. “If your child tells you not to worry because [she feels] prepared and is ready, then that’s a big message.”
Simone’s confidence stems from her upbringing and the many lessons taught to her by her mom, who grew up in the Central American nation of Belize.
— Olympics (@Olympics) December 27, 2016
“We came from humble beginnings. My mother was a very caring and giving person, and so was my father,” Mrs Biles explains. “These are the values that I grew up with, so I made sure that my upbringing has pretty much transferred to the way I raised my family.”
And it’s served Simone Biles well. After Al Trautwig, an NBC gymnastics commentator, referred to Ron and Nellie Biles as Simone’s grandparents—they adopted Simone and her younger sister in 2002 because their biological mother struggled with addiction—he was called out on Twitter. Instead of immediately apologising for the mistake he doubled down, saying, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.” Trautwig was quickly rebuked and finally apologized for the insensitive remark, but it didn’t faze Simone.
“I can’t control what other people do or say. I can only control me, and I know what’s real and what’s fake,” she says, noting Trautwig’s comments were the first time anyone questioned her parents’ status.
While living in the spotlight often comes with bullies, critics and rumors, Simone has chosen to control the narrative. Instead of responding to it directly, the self-described bubbly teen has chosen to write a book. In Courage lo Soar, Simone details her life from the foster care system to the Rio Olympics and also inspires young people to follow their dreams.
“I thought it would be a good idea [to write a book] because people see everything all over the Internet, but I feel like it’s better coming from me and telling my own story,” she says.
For Simone, the best place to express herself is in the gym, because that’s where she feels the most powerful.
“I loved the idea of flipping my body in the air, and not most kids could say they can do that or do that in general,” she says, recalling what attracted her to the sport. “It’s something unique, and who doesn’t want to fly in the air? It’s kind of cool.”