Black History Month: Simone Biles
Simone Biles is an American gymnast who has participated in five gymnastic World Championships and two Summer Olympics games. She has a total of 19 World Championship gold medals and four Olympic gold medals. Her drive and unparalleled talent have awed the world since she started participating in international competitions.
When she made her senior debut at the age of 16 in the 2013 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, Biles won the all-around title: an overall award consisting of a combination of points from all the events. Biles was the first ever African American to win the title. This by itself would be impressive, but according to the Team USA website, by the 2015 Championships, she had compiled the most medals out of any American World Championship athlete and more than any woman to ever compete at the time.
Biles was chosen to compete in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. There, she set a record for the most gold medals won by an American gymnast in a single Olympic competition. She was also the first American female gymnast chosen to be the Team USA flag bearer in the closing ceremonies.
In 2017, she took a hiatus from her gymnastics career. During this time, she co-wrote her autobiography Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance. During the week of January 8, 2017, it was number one on the New York Times young adult bestseller list. She also competed on season 24 of Dancing With the Stars, where she finished in fourth place.
In 2018, Biles placed first in every event at the Gymnastic World Championship. She became the first woman to accomplish this since 1994. According to The Washington Post, in 2019, Biles earned her 24th World Championship medal. This is when she received her current title of most World Championship medals won by any gymnast.
During the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, Biles gained an excess of attention for something unrelated to her winning streak. She was in one event at the beginning of the team competitions before withdrawing from them. This led to her also leaving the the rest of the competitions excluding the beam final. At the time, Biles was experiencing a psychological issue known as “the twisties.” It’s a condition that causes a gymnast to lose awareness of surroundings while performing twists. It can be extremely dangerous to compete with, and she was concerned for both her physical and mental health.
She was hit with an overwhelming amount of criticism over her choice of withdrawing from the competition specifically because she claimed it was due to her mental health. Many people insisted that she was “abandoning her team” or being selfish. Regardless of this, many other gymnasts came to her defense, saying that they had also experienced the twisties and the troubles that came with them. Alongside the criticism, there were countless people applauding her move and praising her for opening a conversation about mental health in professional sports. By putting her mental health first, Biles set an example for other athletes by doing something that they might’ve been hesitant about.
Simone Biles is non-stop in everything she does, but she still manages to put her own needs first, and that’s one of the many things that I admire about her. She epitomizes the definition of Black Excellence, and she handles constant attention, both positive and negative, with ease. I believe she’s a public figure who deserves nothing but respect and appreciation.