Simone Biles is the most decorated female gymnast ever, with 30 World and Olympic medals. The 24-year-old has won 25 World medals, including 19 golds—the most in gymnastics history. At the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016, Biles became the first female U.S. gymnast to win four gold medals at a single Games.
She’s also a seven-time U.S. all-around champion and the first woman to win five World all-around titles, three World balance beam titles, and five World floor exercise titles. She’s hoping to add to the haul at the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. Here are 12 more facts from Biles’s fascinating life so far.
1. Simone Biles started gymnastics following a field trip in daycare.
The 4-foot-8-inch Biles was born in Columbus, Ohio, and now lives near Houston, Texas. When Biles was 6, she took a daycare field trip to Bannon’s Gymnastix outside of Houston and imitated the older gymnasts. The coaches spotted her talent and sent a letter home to her parents suggesting Biles take up the sport. Biles worked with coach Aimee Boorman through the Rio Olympics, took a year off, and then began training with Cecile and Laurent Landi in October 2017.
2. Simone Biles’s sister also trained in gymnastics.
Simone and her younger sister, Adria, were raised by their parents, Nellie and Ron, their biological grandparents who adopted the girls at a young age. Adria also competed in gymnastics and trained alongside Simone until the age of 16. Adria calls her sister “fearless” and told ESPN that when they were little, Simone would jump off a second-floor railing onto a couch one floor below. The sisters look a lot alike, so much so that even though Adria is about 6 inches taller, fans mistook her for Simone at the Rio Olympics so often that Adria finally stopped trying to correct people and let them snap her photo.
3. As a child, Simone Biles was diagnosed with ADHD.
In 2016, Russian hackers broke into the World Anti-Doping Agency’s website and publicized various athletes’ private medical records, including Biles’s. Biles was diagnosed with ADHD as a child and takes Ritalin, a stimulant that is on the agency’s banned list. However, Biles has approval from USA gymnastics to take the medication in a therapeutic-use exemption. Biles took to Twitter to send a message that taking medication for ADHD is nothing to be ashamed of.
4. Simone Biles has four gymnastics moves named after her.
To have a move named after them, a gymnast must submit it to a governing body for consideration and then successfully land it at a major competition. There are four moves that bear the name Biles: two on floor, one on beam, and one on vault. In addition, in May Biles became the first female gymnast to successfully perform a vault move called the Yurchenko double pike in competition. The move involves a roundoff back handspring onto the springboard, then vaulting high enough to complete two flips in a pike position.
Controversy ensued when the judges gave it a scoring value of 6.6, similar to other, less risky moves. Biles and others criticized the International Gymnastics Federation for artificially deflating the point value of the Yurchenko double pike to discourage less-skilled athletes from attempting it for their own safety—and to prevent someone like Biles from running away with a competition.
5. There’s a goat on Simone Biles’s leotard.
Biles wears a rhinestone goat on her leotard, partly to take a swipe at haters and partly to inspire kids to be proud of their abilities. The goat symbolizes G.O.A.T., or “Greatest Of All Time.” Biles said she wanted kids to acknowledge when they’re good at something rather than downplay it. Her social media followers helped her name it Goldie.
6. Simone Biles has her own emoji.
The “Simoji,” a 99-cent app, features a variety of cartoon gymnast figures in Biles’s likeness. Biles said in a quick-hit YouTube interview with USA Gymnastics that her favorite emoji overall is the winking smiley face with its tongue sticking out.
7. Simone Biles crushed her competition in the handstand challenge.
Last April, actor Tom Holland created a social media challenge that entailed putting on a t-shirt while doing a handstand against a wall, then nominating someone else to do the same. Biles shut everyone down when she increased the difficulty level by taking off a pair of sweatpants while doing a handstand. In less than a minute. With no wall for support.
8. A bee once chased Simone Biles around the medal podium.
At the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China, 16-year-old Biles was holding a bouquet of flowers on the podium after winning gold in the individual all-around when Romanian silver medalist Lorisa Iordache pointed out a bee. Biles tried to shake the bee out of the bouquet, which of course prompted it to buzz around in anger. Biles dropped the flowers, screamed, and ducked and danced away from the insect, laughing all the while.
9. Simone Biles competed at the 2018 World Championships despite a painful kidney stone.
Biles led her team to gold at the World Gymnastics Championship in Doha, Qatar, despite visiting the ER the night before the event. Biles said she had been experiencing stomach pain on her right side for a couple of days and went to the hospital as a precaution, thinking of appendicitis. Testing revealed a kidney stone, which Biles didn’t pass prior to the competition. Instead, she went out and posted the highest individual scores for beam, vault, and the floor events, and was second on uneven bars. She also had a vault named after her.
10. Simone Biles’s boyfriend didn’t know who she was when they started dating.
Biles is dating NFL player Jonathan Owens, whom she met just before the pandemic. It may be hard to fathom, but Owens, who plays for the Houston Texans, says he hadn’t heard of Biles. He did notice that Biles had 4 million followers on Instagram and surmised she must be good at what she does—and soon found out what an understatement that was.
11. Simone Biles loves dogs.
Biles owns two French bulldogs named Lilo and Rambo. They appear regularly on their Instagram account, @thebilesfrenchies, where they have more than 47,000 followers. Lilo and Rambo spend a lot of time with Owens’s own bulldog, Zeus, who’s also on social media. At one point, Biles and her family had four German Shepherds.
12. After meets, Simone Biles treats herself to pizza.
Biles is known for busting stereotypes of how female gymnasts should look and perform, and she carries that outside of the gym as well. Her Instagram feed shows her having fun with her family and friends (and dogs), not to mention occasionally engaging in some food and drink that plenty of non-elite athletes enjoy. She likes tequila and margaritas, tweeted about fried pickles, and has repeatedly professed her love for pizza, going so far as to say she treats herself to pepperoni pizza after every meet. While in St. Louis for the Olympic trials in June, she indulged in the famous square slices at Imo’s Pizza, and upon returning home to Texas, tweeted that she already missed it.