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Simone Biles: Overcoming Adversity to Become the GOAT

Zach Thompson breaks down Simone Biles’ career.

Gymnastics - Artistic - Olympics: Day 11 Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

At only 24 years old, Simone Biles has already established herself as the greatest athlete ever in her sport. She has dominated the world gymnastic scene for the past several years, earning her nickname as “The GOAT.” Twitter even got on board ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, creating a special emoji of a goat doing gymnastics with a gold medal for #SimoneBiles or #Simone. Despite this year’s Olympics not going according to plan, Biles continues to be compelling and rise above the many different kinds of adversity she has faced. How did this 4-foot-8 dynamo establish herself as the best gymnast of all time and what is next for her? Let’s take a look at her career, as we celebrate the arrival of her NFTs to the DraftKings Marketplace.

What makes all of Biles’ outstanding achievements even more remarkable is the amount of adversity she has had to overcome on her pathway to the top. Biles was born in Columbus, Ohio on March 14, 1997, but she and her three siblings ended up in the foster care system after their mother was unable to care for them. Her ascent to the top of the world of gymnastics began around the same time she was adopted by her maternal grandfather, who raised her just outside of Houston, Texas. Biles first tried the sport as part of a field trip, and quickly showed immense potential. She burst onto the national scene in 2012 with a win at the American Classic hosted in Huntsville, Texas, and joined the U.S. Junior National Team later that year.

After moving to the Senior National Team in 2013, she claimed her first All-Around gold medal at the 2013 World Championships. She added another gold, silver and bronze in the individual events to start a fantastic haul of hardware from the World Championships throughout her career. In only five appearances, Biles has stacked up a record 25 medals, including a record 19 golds.

Biles is most well-known, though, for her Olympic dominance. She made her Olympic debut in 2016 at the Rio games and led the U.S. team to a win in the team competition to get her first taste of Olympic gold. She followed that up with another gold in the All-Around and added more gold in individual events on floor exercise and vault to become the first quadruple-gold winner since 1984. She tacked on a bronze on the balance beam as well and emerged as one of the breakout stars of the game. After her dominant showing, she was asked to carry the U.S. Flag in the closing ceremonies, becoming the first American female gymnast in history to receive that honor.

She took a year off from competitive gymnastics in 2017, instead participating in Season 24 of Dancing with the Stars (finishing fourth) and crashing The New York Times bestsellers list with her autobiography Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance. The year off didn’t slow her down at all, and she returned to finish first in every event at the National Championship in August of 2018. She overcame physical adversity to compete in the World Championships that year after being hospitalized due to a kidney stone. She overcame that issue and walked away with six medals, including four more golds.

Her second run at Olympic glory was delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she still entered Tokyo 2020 expected to be one of the faces of the games. Biles started having issues in the run-up to the games, though, and ultimately had to withdraw from almost all the competitions due to mental health issues. She was dealing with something known as the “twisties,” which is a crisis of confidence that causes a gymnast to lose total sense of where their bodies are in midair.

In what could have been her darkest hour, Biles instead used the opportunity to shine an increased spotlight on the mental health of athletes. She boldly spoke out about her difficulties and said in an interview with NBC’s Today that the experience helped her to realize that “more than my medals in gymnastics. I’m a human being, and I’ve done some courageous things outside of this sport. I don’t think, if this situation didn’t happen, I would have never seen it that way.” She stayed in the building and encouraged her U.S. teammates throughout the team competition as they claimed the silver medal and even returned and cheered on teammate Suni Lee, who claimed the all-around gold medal. In a continued show of her courage, Biles ultimately made a return to the individual beam competition. She performed well and won the bronze medal in one of the most-watched moments of the entire Olympics. Even though she didn’t win the gold, overcoming her mental adversity made it an extremely meaningful medal. In fact, she described it as meaning “more than all the golds, because I’ve pushed through so much the last five years and the last week.”

Not only did she become a representative for athletes’ mental health across all sports, but she also spoke out bravely as part of the group of women gymnasts who were sexual assault victims of Dr. Larry Nassar. Biles designed and wore a teal leotard at the 2018 U.S. National Championships that she stated was meant to honor the survivors of Nassar’s abuse. She has also used her influence to raise awareness and sensitivity to ADHD along with raising funds and encouraging support for foster care.

She has also left a lasting mark on the sport of gymnastics by pushing the sport to new levels in multiple ways. When a gymnast does a skill that no other competitor has ever performed, the tradition has become to name the skill after that gymnast. As a result, Biles has an impressive total of four skills named after her—one on vault, one on balance beam and two on floor exercise. The vault known as the Biles has never been performed by any other competitor. Outside of the gym, she has represented major brands like Kellogg’s, Hershey, United Airlines, GAP and Nike.

What’s next for the megastar? Well, it’s only three years until the 2024 Olympics in Paris, and at that point, Biles will be 27 years old. Most gymnasts retire much earlier than that age, but Biles was at a pinnacle unlike any other gymnast in recent history. Whether she is able to compete at the top level or returns as a team player with a reduced role, Biles will definitely be welcomed back after proving herself such a great team player in Tokyo. Whatever she chooses to do moving forward, Biles will be remembered as the GOAT in the gym and also a meaningful spokesperson for important causes in multiple arenas.