Shining Star: Simone Biles
It’s called a Yurchenko double pike: a vault so difficult and dangerous that no other woman has ever attempted it in competition. It’s unlikely that any woman in the world has even attempted the move in training.
In fact, it’s so dangerous that the judges intentionally underscored it, giving it a provisional scoring value of 6.6, close to what Biles’s other vaults have received. The judges don’t want to encourage dangerous moves that might lead to less skilled gymnasts being injured. That meant that breaking new ground and performing a move that no one else has ever achieved wasn’t rewarded.
But does that mean that Simone won’t continue to push the envelope? Not a chance. When asked why she continues to attempt ever more difficult feats despite receiving the same score as less difficult moves, she simply said: “Because I can.”
At the Tokyo Olympics, all eyes will be on Simone Biles competing to win her second straight individual all-around gold medal, the sport’s highest honor. No one has ever won two in a row. The winner of four golds in 2016, she will have a chance at six this year, in the team event, individual all-around, and four apparatus finals. She’s already the most-decorated gymnast in history. The sequin goat embroidered in her leotard is a sly acknowledgement that she is the Greatest Of All Time.
And as awe-inspiring as Simone Biles is in competition, she’s even more inspiring in the rest of her life.
In her spare time outside the gym, Simone champions causes close to her heart, such as advocating for children and young adults involved with the foster care system and adoption. She sponsors scholarships for foster children and others to have a chance for higher education. Simone herself was placed in foster care as a toddler because her mother wasn’t able to care for her and her siblings. She and her younger sister were eventually adopted by her grandparents.
And this year she became a successful entrepreneur too. She ended her sponsorship contract with Nike and signed with Athleta. The retailer has agreed to sponsor the national gymnastics tour she is organizing, called the Gold Over America Tour. In the past, this kind of gymnastics events was traditionally sponsored by USA Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body.
Simone has repeatedly criticized USA Gymnastics for not keeping athletes safe from Lawrence Nassar, the national team doctor who was convicted on multiple counts of sexually abusing athletes.
Simone mentors other gymnasts including Jordan Chiles, who will be joining her in Tokyo. After she finished 11th in the all-around at nationals in 2018, Jordan Chiles was ready to give up gymnastics. But Simone convinced her she had potential to succeed. So Jordan moved from Washington to train with Simone at her family's gym World Champions Centre in Texas. Jordan want on to win the all-around, vault and floor exercise at the 2021 Winter Cup. At the U.S. Championship, she finished third overall and was selected for the Tokyo team.
At the national championships, you could see Simone Biles, greatest gymnast of all time, helping 15-year-old Zoe Miller, who also trains at her gym, tie a bow around her bun before competing.
Making sure her competitors do their best and providing a way for them to shine after the Olympics are over? That’s even more inspiring than the Yurchenko double pike.
That kind of kindness and support is something we can all provide to each other. You may not win a gold or silver medal but you can be a shining star too. One way to contribute is to wear gold or silver jewelry that supports Girl Up, a leadership development initiative founded by the United Nations Foundation. Every purchase from the Girl Up Collection funds efforts to advance gender equity worldwide. Who do you know who deserves the Gold Star Pendant for making the world a better place for other women? Maybe it’s you?