The Formula that Leads to Wild Success- Part 8: Simone Biles
People who back their ideas and opportunities with hard work, a positive attitude and faith are very successful. They’re the individuals we look up to and admire in society. They follow the unofficial winning formula of humanity, which they put into practice each day.
They have maximized their talent by believing in themselves, having the audacity to put themselves in the spotlight and outworking everyone while never, ever giving up. We choose people like these as role models to look up to and to inspire us. They serve as a baseline- a standard of greatness- for us to study and measure ourselves against.
This is the eighth profile in my series on individuals, who in their own unique way, followed this formula to overwhelming success. Over the next 10 days, I will showcase the final two individuals in this series. All 10 are people who have shattered the limits- of what many thought was possible- to re-define greatness.
Today, I tell the story of the young, extraordinarily accomplished gymnast, Simone Biles, who is competing now at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil . You can read Part 1 on Michael Jordan here, Part 2 on Oprah Winfrey here, Part 3 on Elon Musk here, Part 4 on Martin Luther King Jr. here, Part 5 on Misty Copeland here, Part 6 on J.K. Rowling here and Part 7 on Gordon Ramsay here. Enjoy!
Age and Size Matter Not
The greatest athletes don’t have to be tall. In fact, they don’t even need to stand 5 feet. Simone Biles, the pint-sized 4' 8", gymnastic wunderkind appears destined to win several gold medals at the Rio Olympics. She has so thoroughly dominated the sport- since the 2012 London Olympics- that all of her competitors are left clamoring for second place.
Biles did not compete at the London Olympics and watched from home as her now star teammate Gabby Douglas became the first African-American woman to win the Gold medal in the Women’s all-around event. In the past four years, Biles has dramatically eclipsed her teammate, while vaulting into the hearts and, record books in the same event in Rio.
The remarkable Biles, as graceful and sweet as she is athletic, has won four consecutive all-around gymnastics titles at the U.S. national championships, as well as three consecutive all-around titles at the world championships. No woman in history has ever accomplished the latter.
Add to that haul a total of 14 world championship medals- also the most ever by an American woman- and we are soon to watch one of the most accomplished, dynamic athletes in American history show the entire world her greatness on the biggest stage.
Oh yeah, she’s 19 years old.
Biles was born in Columbus, Ohio and lived there until age three. She spent time in foster care prior to relocating to Spring, Texas to live with her maternal grandparents. Biles’ mother had struggled with alcohol and drugs, so much that she was no longer able to properly care for Simone and her sister. Biles went to live with the parents she now refers to as “Mom” and “Dad.”
“She’s been a survivor from a very, very young age.” — Nellie Biles, Simone’s Mom.
When she was six-years old, she went on a field trip with her daycare group to a gymnastics center. As it turns out, gymnastics seemed to discover Biles, rather than through her own process of self-discovery. She began imitating the moves of the older gymnasts and several of the coaches noticed her natural talent.
The coaches that sent her a letter at her home, asking her to sign up and come compete. That was the seminal moment that launched the gymnastics career of the woman now recognized as one of the greatest gymnasts in history. It was at that moment that the idea became planted in her mind that this was the life for her.
After visiting that gymnastics center at age six, Biles began to imagine herself competing on the world’s biggest stage. She knew she loved what she was doing, she would soon learn how much dedication and effort it would take to become the world’s best.
Throughout her youth, Biles trained with the woman who remains her coach- to this day- Aimee Boorman. Biles has blossomed in large part due to Boorman’s coaching. Biles learned the craft from Boorman, who was a former competitive gymnast, as well. Biles is quick to point out her trust and confidence in her long-time coach.
“I always say she’s like the second mom to me because she’s been there since I was 8-years-old, and so thats 10 years that she’s always been by my side. I’m very fortunate to have a coach that I got to stay with all this time. Every year the bond gets stronger and better and we understand each other more.” — Simone Biles
The Launch Toward Greatness
Biles made the decision to be home-schooled, following middle school, in order to continue advancing in gymnastics. She believes this critical change made all the difference. Whereas her peers, who were not attending public school, were training for nearly 40 hours per week, Biles was only training after school during the week.
20 hours of training for some people is just fine. But to be the greatest in the world, it takes more effort. It also takes incredible confidence, courage and belief in oneself. Biles started out with relatively modest goals. At first, she simply wanted to compete at the national championships. Next? Make the junior national team.
Biles’ breakthrough came in 2013 when she made her senior international debut at the 2013 American Cup. Later that year, stunningly, she was world champion. She then repeated that feat in 2014 and 2015. This Rio Olympics serves as the de facto World Championships because they are not officially held during Olympic years.
Prior to her incredible championship run, there weren’t clear signs that she would become one of the greats. As Dvora Meyers describes here, she didn’t have all of the basic gymnastics skills down pat:
“Biles, for all of her strengths, had some notable weaknesses. She isn’t naturally flexible and couldn’t find the right shapes on her leaps and jumps. She also didn’t know how to control her immense power, often bounding up and back several feet after landing tumbling passes. And on bars — the most technical event in the women’s repertoire — she lacked finesse.”
What makes Biles’ story so great is her ability to turn her weaknesses into strengths- to overcome her shortcomings by using adversity as a motivator.
A Legacy in the Making
“I’d rather regret the risks that didn’t work out than the chances I didn’t take at all.” — Simone Biles
The feeling is that everyone else at a competition with Simone Biles is hoping for a miracle. She’s so dominant and yet due to her jubilant smile and petite figure, she is not the typically imposing athlete we’re accustomed to seeing. She is however, a first-rate competitor who is fiercely dedicated to her craft.
She’s already an all-time winner, who has arrived at her success through exceptionally hard work. She spends a minimum of six hours per day in the gym, which includes a rigorous stretching routine and perfecting her routines and moves in all of her competitive events.
“It’s amazing that I can inspire little kids to know that you can be short or tall, and your body type doesn’t matter because you can do anything.” — Simone Biles
Biles, a Catholic, carries a rosary with her in her gym bag and prays before each competition. Faith is one of the components that has driven her to become one of the top athletes in the world. She believes in herself and her teammates with maximum power of faith. This belief has helped carry her to the pinnacle of her sport.
Biles may go on to win an extraordinary five gold medals at these Rio Olympics. If her performance on the first night of the Olympic competition was any indication, Biles is well on her way to convincingly winning the biggest gymnastics competition in the world, on her first attempt
What for long has seemed an impossible feat, hardly seems out of the question for such an exceptional athlete.
Simone Biles’ quest started with a dream, as it always does. She has coupled her natural talent with a tireless work ethic, the opportunity to be great and incomparable belief in herself. We, as fans, have the joy to watch one of the most magnificent athletes of all time shatter records as she jumps, flies and flips her way to Olympic glory.
What will she do following Rio? She shows no signs of stopping. There’s always another competition. Always another gold medal to pursue. That is the mindset of a winner.
“We can push ourselves further. We always have more to give.” — Simone Biles
Please stay tuned for Part 9 in my series on Thursday. In the meantime, if you enjoyed reading this, please be so kind as to hit the green heart, and let me know what you have to say! If you’re really feeling lucky, please consider following me here on Medium! Thank you so very kindly for reading.