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Inspirational Athletes: The Simone Biles Story

By Marianna Kazazi, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy, Nicosia, Cyprus      

Born in Ohio in 1997, Simone Biles is one of the world’s greatest gymnasts, leaving her mark in the world of sports, not only due to her incredible performances, but also due to her strong and charismatic personality.

Biles grew up with her grandparents, who also adopted her, and who always encouraged and supported her participation in sports. Her natural abilities and talent in sports were discovered at the young age of 6, during a field trip to a gymnastics center, where Biles began imitating what the athletes were doing. Little did she know that she was being observed by a coach, who eventually sent a letter to her house inviting her to join gymnastics. Soon afterwards, Simone started working on developing her athletic abilities and this was marked as the starting point to what would turn out to be a highly successful career.

Years later, and followed by many other athletic accomplishments, Biles received four gold and one bronze medal at the single games in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. She became the first female US gymnast to achieve so many gold medals, as well as the first gymnast to win three consecutive all-around titles. Biles also holds 25 World Championship medals, making her the most ‘decorated’ gymnast in world championship history.

Whilst her athletic accomplishments are peaking Simone also dominates the list of awards related to her inspirational and influential personality. Specifically, some of her recent awards include the BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2021: Lifetime Achievement Award, in addition to being presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Joe Biden in 2022. She is the youngest person to ever receive this highest civilian honorary award, especially due to her support and activism on matters related to athletes’ mental health, children in foster care and sexual assault victims.

Examples indicating the strength and authenticity of her personality, include her fight against different types of social stigma.

Specifically, Biles made the decision to withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics, after medical evaluation, to focus on her mental health and wellbeing, talking about it quite openly.

After the 2016 Olympics, confidential medical records of the USA team athletes, including Biles, were hacked, revealing that she tested positive for Ritalin, an ADHD medication. Whilst hackers tried to discredit her great performance, Biles took the opportunity to fight ADHD stigma, sending powerful messages through her tweets, in which she mentioned that, having this disorder and taking medicine for it, is nothing to be ashamed of and that she is not afraid to let the public know.

Biles also had the courage through a post on her social media platform, sharing her own personal story, raising awareness on sexual harassment and abuse with the #metoo movement. She revealed that she was one of the many young women, who had been sexually abused by the USA Gymnastics team former medical doctor, Nassar, who was sentenced to life in prison on various charges of sexual abuse.

Her devotion to gymnastics, along with her phenomenal performance, as well as her character, have inspired many girls of color to participate in sports, as well as embrace her activism.

Undoubtedly, Simone Biles is an inspirational athlete, whose personality shines through all her sports-related achievements!

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