Olympian Simone Biles
Posted December 31, 2020
Topics: African American HistorySports

By Allison Bolam, History Collections Intern

2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted many women the right to vote. Passage of the 19th Amendment has enabled women to pursue higher education, enter new professional fields, and influence politics. Since then, women have continued to advocate for issues that affect their families, their communities, and the nation. As part of our continuing commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the Ohio History Connection is sharing stories of amazing Ohio women, past and present.

World champion gymnast Simone Arianne Biles was born on March 14, 1997 in Columbus, Ohio. She and her younger sister, Adria, were adopted at a young age by their parents Ron and Nellie. She grew up near Houston in Spring, Texas with her parents and her siblings Adria, Ron II, and Adam. While she considers Columbus her hometown, she currently resides in Texas.  From a young age, Biles was often found bouncing and jumping around, and at the age of six, Biles attended a school field trip to Bannon’s Gymnastix. It was on this trip that Biles was introduced to the sport of gymnastics. At Bannon’s, she began imitating the gymnasts’ movements; she came home and insisted her parents enroll her in a gymnastics class. [1]

Biles began training under coach Aimee Boorman at Bannon’s Gymnastix, and she stayed there for 11 years. In 2010, at the age of 13, Biles competed at the Women’s Junior Olympic National Championships, where she won a gold in floor exercise and a bronze in vault. The next year, she broke into the elite level of competition gymnastics, and by 2013, Biles began breaking records. She became the first Black woman to win the all-around title at the World Gymnastics Championships. It was her first year competing at the world championships and her first year as a senior level competitor. At the world championships the following year, Biles won four gold medals: in women’s team competition, individual all-around, balance beam, and floor exercise events. [2]

In 2015, Biles continued to break records. She won the all-around world champion title for the third year in a row, the first athlete to do so since Kim Zmeskal in 1992. Biles’s medal wins at the 2015 world championships brought her to a career total of 14 world championship medals, the most world championship medals ever earned by a U.S. gymnast, male or female. [3] This makes Biles the most decorated World Championship American gymnast. [4]


Olympian Simone Biles wears a gold medal and waves with her right hand while smiling

Simone Biles waves from the podium after winning the all-around gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.

"File:Simone Biles at the 2016 Olympics all-around gold medal podium (28262782114).jpg" by Agência Brasil Fotografias is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

Simone Biles bends her legs backward over her head while balancing on both hands on a balance beam

Simone Biles performs her beam routine during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Danilo Borges/brasil2016.gov.br, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e7/Simone_Biles_2016_Rio_beam.jpg.

Although too young to compete in the 2012 Olympics, Biles had already set herself up to be a front-runner in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. She wowed audiences in Rio; Biles took home four gold medals at the 2016 Games, becoming only the fifth female gymnast to win four gold medals at a single Olympic Games. She first led the American women’s team to gold in the team event, then won gold in the individual all-around, floor, and vault events. Finally, she earned a bronze medal in the balance beam event. [5] After winning a total of 5 medals at the Olympic Games, Biles had secured her place as one of the best gymnasts in history.

After the 2016 Games, Biles took a break from competing. In 2018, she announced she had been one of the victims of Dr. Larry Nassar. Nassar is a former U.S. Gymnastics doctor who sexually abused many of the athletes he saw as patients. Later that year, Biles began competing again. At the 2018 U.S. National Championships, she won gold in all 5 events. Thus, Biles became the first female gymnast to win all 5 events in 25 years. She continued breaking records when she became the most decorated female gymnast in the world at the World Championships in 2018. Her medals that year brought her career total to a staggering 20 world championship medals. [6]

Biles has not only won awards in the world of gymnastics, but the American public and media have honored her with many awards and recognitions. The Associated Press named her the Female Athlete of the Year 2016, and she took home a Kids’ Choice Award for Sports “Favorite Newcomer” 2016. TIME Magazine even honored Biles as one of their Most Influential People in the World. Biles further left her mark on the gymnastics world when she established a signature move; a complex flip she included in her routine during the 2013 World Championships is known as the “Biles.” Biles is sure to continue to make an impact on the world of gymnastics, as she has been called by peers, coaches, and the media alike “the most talented gymnast of all-time.” [7] Young gymnasts and athletes everywhere are surely looking forward to her appearance at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Recommended Reading:

For early readers:

The Story of Simone Biles: A Biography Book for New Readers by Rachelle Burk

Trailblazers: Simone Biles by Sally J. Morgan


Grades 4-8:

Epic Athletes: Simone Biles by Dan Wetzel

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford (Grades 7-9)


For adult readers:

I Know This to be True: Simone Biles by Geoff Blackwell and Ruth Hobday

Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles with Michelle Burford


[1] “Bio,” Simone Biles.com, accessed October 5, 2020, https://www.simonebiles.com/bio.

[2] The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Simone Biles,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, published April 27, 2020, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Simone-Biles.

[3] Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Simone Biles.”

[4] “Bio,” Simone Biles.com.

[5] Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Simone Biles.”

[6] Encyclopaedia Britannica, “Simone Biles.”

[7] “Bio,” Simone Biles.com.

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