At just 146cm tall, US gymnast Simone Biles turned out to be one of the biggest stars of Rio 2016. Appearing at her first Olympic Games, the teenager finished with four out of the five gold medals in her sights, and dazzled audiences with her sublime skills.
In and out of foster care from an early age, the youngster was eventually adopted by her maternal grandfather and his wife. Shrugging off her early hardships and applying herself to artistic gymnastics with hard work and perseverance, she has gone on to prove in recent years – and no more so than in Rio - that “dreams do come true”.
Since her breakthrough at the World Championships in Antwerp in 2013, Biles has soared to stardom with a record 10 world titles. And she got her first ever Games underway by spearheading the US team that took gold in the team all-around event. Finishing a massive 8.209 points clear of Russia and China, the Americans blew away the competition to retain their title.
By the time Biles stepped up to do her floor routine, the destination of the gold was already clear, there was no sense of anti-climax as she thrilled the crowd with a stunning display set to Brazilian music and scored an incredible 15.800.
Two days later she took the individual all-around title prompting words of congratulations from Romanian gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci, who described her victory as “a beautiful success.”
On 14 August, the American teenager secured her third gold medal, this time in the vault. The last to compete, Biles scored 15.966 which was enough to deliver her title on this apparatus. A day later Biles made her only lapse in Rio, when she ceded gold in the beam to Dutchwoman Sanne Wevers. An uncharacteristic slip saw her slip into the bronze medal position.
However, her best was still to come. Biles secured her fourth gold medal in style with a brilliant performance on the mat. Biles stormed to gold with a near-perfect performance and a score of 15.966, thanks to a samba-influenced routine that showcased her power, agility and creativity, and sent the Rio crowd wild.
Her final gold saw the little Texan enter the history books by equalling the record of four titles won at the same Games that has been achieved by four gymnasts – the Soviet Union’s Larissa Latynina and Hungary’s Agnes Keleti in 1956, Czechoslovakia’s Vera Caslavska in 1968 and Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo in 1984. Not only does she join this quartet in the record books, but also in the pantheon of Olympic greats.
With typical understatement and modesty, Biles summed up her Rio experience as follows: “My first Olympics and I’ve walked away with five medals, that's not disappointing at all.”Watch more videos of Simone Biles on the Olympic Channel.