Simone Biles Biography: Fast Facts About Her Faith, Family, and Why She’s the GOAT

Biles is the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in all of world championship history

Simone Biles
Simone Biles at the Doha Artistic Gymnastics World Championship, in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 11, 2018. (Photo: Abelardo Mendes Jr/ rededoesporte.gov.br/(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

Simone Biles is no stranger to the spotlight. Widely regarded as the “GOAT,” or “greatest of all time,” she has blown the world away with her barrier-breaking gymnastics.

And with an unexpected, mid-Tokyo 2020 Olympic finals tap-out, Biles has cemented her legacy as a world-class gymnast who prioritizes mental and physical health over winning medals. Through her docu-series, “Simone vs Herself,” Biles has opened up about intimate parts of her life and her journey to Tokyo this year.

Here are some things you need to know about the GOAT.

Simone, the Most Decorated Gymnast

Biles is the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in all of world championship history, with 24 world championship medals under her belt. She now has six Olympic medals, counting her silver medal earned in Tokyo as of July 27.

 

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Additionally, she has four different moves named after her, a feat only possible if she lands them in competition. The “Biles” and the “Biles II” are both on floor, and she has the “Biles” on the balance beam, and the “Biles” on vault. Each of these have come about from either Biles pushing herself, or her coaches pushing her, to add another flip or turn to moves that already exist. This sends the difficulty and danger levels to new heights.

Perhaps most notably, Biles is the only woman to attempt the men’s-only Yurchenko double pike in competition. Her response when asked why she attempts what was thought to be impossible?

“Because I can.”

However, judges at the 2021 GK U.S. Classic refused to score the Yurchenko double-pike’s difficulty any higher than Biles’s usual vaults, about a 6.6. And when she debuted her first two signature moves at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, judges gave her a score that she felt did not reflect the daring and extreme work she put in.

“I’m almost 99.9% sure if any other athlete were to do it besides me, they would give it correct credit,” Biles says in “Simone vs Herself.”

“But since I’m already way ahead of everybody, they kind of want to pull it back. Because sometimes they don’t think it’s fair that I win all the time.”

Simone, the Mental Health Advocate

In a stunning move during the women’s final in Tokyo on July 27, Biles pulled out of the competition, citing mental health concerns. Her Olympic performance up to that point had been sub-par compared to her usual performances. She was missing landings, slipping off of the mats, and finally botched a vault attempt at the finals that led to her decision.

She later told reporters that she withdrew to “focus” on her “mental health.”

“We have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do,” she said.

Just two days before, Biles posted on Instagram that she felt she did not perform well during the preliminary competition.

 

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“I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. I know I brush it off and make it seem like pressure doesn’t affect me but damn sometimes it’s hard…” she wrote. “The Olympics is no joke!”

In the first episode of “Simone vs Herself,” Biles tells viewers that she almost did not make it to Tokyo. When rumors about the Olympics being canceled were circulating in March of 2020, Biles said that if they canceled the games, she would quit.

“I can’t do this any longer,” she told the interviewer. The toll that gymnastics was taking on her mind and body, she said, were getting to be too much. At the age of 24, she is one of the oldest members of the USA women’s gymnastics team. She said in an interview with the Today show that she thinks about her age every day.

A postponed Olympic games, however, meant that she would have to stick it out with USA Gymnastics for another year—a fact that Biles was not happy about. Biles revealed in 2018 that she was one of the hundreds of women and girls sexually abused by USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar.

 

She said that before releasing her statement, she had been struggling with questions like, “was I too naive?” or “was it my fault?”

“No,” she wrote. “No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.”

The case revealed that USA Gymnastics overlooked Nassar’s history of sexual abuse before hiring him.

Simone, a Sister and Daughter

Biles and her siblings were forced into the foster care system when she was very young, as her biological mother struggled with drug and alcohol abuse. She remembers going hungry with her siblings.

“Growing up, me and my siblings were so focused on food because we didn’t have a lot of food,” she said in an episode of “Simone vs Herself.”

“I remember there was this cat around the house and I would be so hungry. They would feed this cat and I would be like, ‘Where the heck is my food?’ And so I think that’s [why] I don’t like cats … because this freaking street cat, she always fed it. But she never fed us.”

 

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She said she was fortunate that her siblings were kept together while they were in the system, because she knows how uncommon that is. When her maternal grandfather heard about this, however, he and his wife decided to adopt Biles and her younger sister, Adria. Their two older siblings would live in Ohio near their mother. To this day, she refers to Nellie and Ronald Biles as ‘mom’ and ‘dad.’

Simone, a Woman of Faith

Biles has written extensively in her autobiography, Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance, on the role that her Catholic faith plays in her life personally and athletically. She says that her faith has helped her to overcome adversity and excel in her sport.

Biles attends Sunday mass with her parents, and, in an interview with Us magazine, revealed that she even carries a rosary with her.

“My mom, Nellie, got me a rosary at church,” she said. “I don’t use it to pray before a competition. I’ll just pray normally to myself, but I have it there in case.”

Biles told the Houston Chronicle that she thinks it is good for her to talk about her faith publicly, saying, “Kids today talk about faith, and I think it’s OK for me to share my faith so kids can see how it helps you through the whole process.”

Recounting the day she received the sacrament of Confirmation, Biles writes in her book:

“I marched into St. James the Apostle Church that Sunday in a line of teenagers with solemn faces… in a way, our procession reminded me of a medal ceremony, except that no gold, silver, and bronze medals would be given out. Instead, our prize would be something much more powerful: in a few moments, each of us would bow our heads to receive the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation.”

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    Written by Evana D. Upshaw

    Evana D. Upshaw is Faithfully Magazine's 2021 Editorial Fellow and a junior journalism student at Biola University. Evana loves discussing the Christian church's role in social justice, learning about how history has shaped our world, and telling stories. Evana currently lives in Baltimore with her mom, dad, and two younger brothers. You can find her on Twitter @EvanaUpshaw.

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