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Part of being a top athlete is to project mental and physical toughness. We view them as superhumans who can handle anything life throws at them.

So when someone as elite as Simone Biles comes out to talk about her mental struggles, people start questioning her resolve—some claim she can’t handle the ‘heat’ of being at the top.

But this is far from the truth. 

Here is the story of Simone Biles’s dominance in gymnastics while shouldering the weight of mental health.

Simone Biles on The Unlikely Path to Greatness

Simone Arianne Biles Owens was born on March 14, 1997, in Columbus, Ohio. She gained international fame and recognition for her outstanding performances in various competitions, including the Olympic Games. 

In her tender years, she and her siblings were placed in foster care. In 2003, Simone and her sister Adria were adopted by their grandparents, Ron and Nellie Biles. This adoption provided stability and support that played a crucial role in Simone’s development.

Simone Biles with her sister
Source: Texas Monthly

Simone Biles’s journey in gymnastics began when she accompanied a daycare field trip to Bannon’s Gymnastix, and the coach recognized her natural talent. She started her formal training at the age of six. Her unique combination of strength, flexibility, and fearlessness quickly set her apart from her peers.

Gaining Recognition in the World of Gymnastics

Simone Biles made her mark on the elite gymnastics scene in 2013 when she won her first all-around national title. She gained attention for her powerful and dynamic routines. Her dominance continued, and she went on to win numerous national and world titles.

Notwithstanding the rather controversial remarks that “black girls don’t excel in gymnastics” due to physiological differences, Simone Biles has stood on the flip side.


She won’t be the first (or last) at the pointed end of widespread skepticism in sports not usually dominated by people of color — of her skin color. Even fellow athletes attributed her early successes to racial favoritism.

But it is nothing new.

We’ve seen the same treatment for Lewis Hamilton until he became undeniably one of the GOATs of Formula 1.

Similarly, Serena Williams has been subjected to more drug tests than any of the other top American players in her field. 

For Simone Biles, the criticism and speculation faded faster than the dust of the opponents she blew away with her athletic brilliance. There is no questioning her. 

Going Golden in Rio

Simone Biles was a massive favorite to bring home gold during the 2016 Rio Olympics — and she delivered.

She won four gold medals (all-around, team, vault, and floor exercise) and one bronze medal (balance beam).

Simone Biles’ accomplishments at the 2016 Rio Olympics made her the most decorated American gymnast at a single Olympic Games and further established her as a global gymnastics icon.

Her dominance continued in subsequent years, and she further solidified her legacy as a gymnastics legend.

After a brief hiatus from competitive gymnastics, Simone returned to the sport with the goal of competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (held in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). 

Dropping out of the 2020 Olympics

When the news broke that Simone Biles was pulling out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the critics and naysayers went into overdrive. 

She wasn’t a real champion. The GOATs don’t duck the smoke because of the ‘twisties’.

In gymnastics, the term “twisties” refers to a phenomenon where a gymnast experiences a mental block or disconnect between their mind and body while performing twisting routines in the air. 

Even as someone with the flexibility of a metal door, I can tell you that losing your orientation mid-air is a guarantee for paralysis or instant death. 

Simone Biles emotional at the Olympics
Source: News Com AU

But the media didn’t care. Some athletes and Olympians even accused Biles of being a coward who quit on her teammates. 

However, some sections of the media cut her some slack and praised her bravery to back down instead of risking her life to prove a moot point. 

Biles’ openness about her struggles and her decision to prioritize mental health garnered widespread support. 

It highlighted the need for increased awareness and understanding of the mental challenges faced by athletes, even at the highest levels of competition. 

Her actions contributed to a broader conversation about the importance of mental well-being in sports and led to a shift in the way mental health is perceived and addressed in the athletic community.

Despite facing mental health challenges during the competition, she still contributed to the team’s silver medal and added a bronze medal to the balance beam.

Bouncing Back

Two years after the Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles made a triumphant return in Chicago, winning the US Classic. Biles thrilled the crowd in suburban Chicago on Saturday with a stunning performance, receiving an all-around judges’ total score of 59.100 points.

Biles took another step on her comeback trail by winning a record-breaking eighth individual all-around championship at the U.S. Gymnastics National Championships in San Jose. It was her last event of the day, and fans roared as she scored 15.400 points.

Again, in Antwerp, Belgium, Simone Biles won her 29th and 30th career medals at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. 

For Biles, her performance in Antwerp was about more than medals after she withdrew from several finals at the Tokyo 2020 Games to prioritize her mental health.

“I had to prove to myself that I could still get out here, twist, I could prove all the haters wrong, that I’m not a quitter, this, that, the other. I didn’t care as long as I’m out there twisting again, having fun and finding the joy for gymnastics again, who cares?”

Simone Biles’ Impact and Accolades

Simone Biles’s accolades can fill several trophy cabinets in both individual and group categories. She is a six-time World all-around champion, six-time World floor exercise champion, four-time World balance beam champion, and two-time World vault champion. 

Additionally, she has clinched the title of the United States national all-around champion eight times. She has been a crucial member of the gold medal-winning American teams at the 5 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. 

Simone Biles with two other black gymnasts
Source: The Guardian

In 2019, Biles broke the record for the most World Championship medals in gymnastics, surpassing Vitaly Scherbo’s previous record. She has since added five more World medals to her collection, bringing her total to an astounding 30. 

Biles made history as the tenth female gymnast and the first American female gymnast to win a World medal in every gymnastics event. She is also the first female gymnast since Daniela Silivaș in 1988 to win a medal in every event at a single Olympic Games or World Championships.

In recognition of her outstanding contributions to the sport, Simone Biles was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Joe Biden in 2022. 

Simone Biles with Joe Biden
Source: BBC

In 2023, she secured her eighth U.S. Gymnastics title, breaking a 90-year-old record previously held by Alfred Jochim.

Simone Biles has not only redefined the sport with her unparalleled athleticism but has also sparked crucial conversations about the intersection of high-performance sports and mental health. 

In an industry that often prioritizes physical prowess over mental well-being, Biles’ journey serves as a powerful narrative, shedding light on the challenges athletes face and the importance of prioritizing mental wellness in the pursuit of excellence.

Who wrote this?

Desmond is a lawyer whose first love is the young boy from Rosario. He loves writing about the legal profession and sports.

Desmond Otikpa
Desmond is a lawyer whose first love is the young boy from Rosario. He loves writing about the legal profession and sports.

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