Simone Biles may stand at only 4ft 8 tall, but the 24-year-old is one of world sport’s biggest stars.
She won four Olympic gold medals at Rio in 2016 in the team event, the individual all-around, the vault, and the floor exercise, as well as a bronze medal in the balance beam.
And in doing so, she set an American record for the most gold medals in women’s gymnastics at a single games.
Biles, who has a combined total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals, is not only taking on her competitors in Tokyo, she is also facing down history.
Only two female gymnasts have ever won gold at 24 or older since 1972, and neither was in the sport’s top prize, the individual all-around, which she is concentrating on.
The oldest woman to win the sport’s top prize in the last 50 years was 20-year-old Simona Amanar of Romania in 2000.
Biles, who lives near Houston, Texas, started gymnastics as a six-year-old on a school trip to Bannon’s Gymnastix, and began training with coach Aimee Boorman at eight.
During her childhood, Biles and her three siblings spent time in and out of foster care, and in 2003 she was eventually adopted by her maternal grandfather, Ron Biles, and his wife, Belize-born Nellie Biles.
Biles, who also holds Belizean citizenship, lives near her parents and currently dates NFL player Jonathan Owens of the Houston Texans.
“He would say I slid into his DMs,” Biles told The Wall Street Journal.
“I saw him and I was like, ‘Oh, he’s pretty cute,’ so I said hi ... and then I saw that he was in the Houston area, so we started chatting a little bit, and then we went to hang out a week or two later.”
Her sister eventually interrupted a FaceTime call and invited Owens on a lake house trip, to which he brought his English bull dog Zeus, and Biles took along her French bulldog, Lilo.
Owens, a defensive player who is on a two-year contract worth $1.39m with the Texans, told Texas Monthly that he did not know who Biles was when they first met.
“I didn’t know who she was,” he told the magazine.
“I just hadn’t heard of her, and when I told her that, that’s one of the things she liked.”
But Biles, who is worth an estimate $6m according to Celebrity Net Worth, has also faced personal difficulties on her path to glory.
She acknowledged that she was one of the Olympic team members sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.
He is serving 175 years in state prison for 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, and was also convicted on a child-pornography charges.
He is thought to be the most prolific sexual abuser in the history of sports, and his employer Michigan State University has settled with 332 survivors for $500m.
And in June an Ohio judge dismissed murder charges filed against her brother, Tevin Biles-Thomas, ruling that prosecutors did not present the evidence to sustain a conviction in a 2018 shooting at a New Year’s Eve party that left three people dead.
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