Simone Biles may only stand at four-feet and nine-inches tall, but the 19-year-old is poised to become the biggest star at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The pint-sized Columbus, Ohio, native has already made a name for herself inside gymnastics circles for the past few years, winning three consecutive world all-around championships and four straight national titles. Now, she’s about to get an introduction to the world stage as the Rio Olympics kick off.
Even days before the women’s gymnastics competition even starts, Simone Biles has already gotten plenty of air time. She’s featured in the Hershey’s advertisement “Hellos from Home,” and has done her share of interviews with national news outlets leading up to the Olympic kick-off.
There’s a good chance that Simone Biles will be an even bigger star by the time the Olympic Games come to a conclusion, the Washington Post noted.
“She’s the prohibitive favorite for the coveted all-round. She’s expected to lead an uncommonly strong U.S. squad to the prestigious team title. And barring a rare misstep, she’ll be untouchable on vault, floor and beam, given the degree of difficulty of her routines.”
But even as Simone Biles has found international fame, she’s remained humble and focused on her goal of winning gold, family members said.
“The most remarkable thing about my sister is how normal she is,” said Adam Biles, her older brother. “Actually, that’s probably the most remarkable thing about our family. We don’t know what famous people are supposed to do, act like or what we are expected to be. So when you see Simone out there competing on the floor, and she’s happy and smiling and making little colorful comments and remarks, that’s genuinely her.”
Biles certainly won’t be free of pressure at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She is the far-and-away favorite to win all-around gold and is expected to take home a handful of medals overall.
That alone wouldn’t set her apart from a number of other gymnasts who reach their peak just in time for the Olympic Games and go home wearing a few gold medals. Instead, Simone Biles is getting historic comparisons, including some giant praise from one of the legends of the sport.
“Just when we thought we were at the physical limit of the sport, then here comes Simone Biles,” Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton told ESPNW. “She’s the best I’ve ever seen.”
Retton noted how difficult it is to remain on top for an extended period in a sport where an athlete’s peak may last only a short time.
“It’s very difficult to come back. I competed for another 2 1/2 years after the Olympics and it’s hard…. She’s out there on the floor, as reigning Olympic champion, and it’s a pressure that’s very difficult to describe,” Retton said. “There’s two ways to go out onto the competition floor. To go out there to win or to go out there trying not to lose. It’s a big difference and you can see it on her face there’s some nerves and some real pressure.”
Women’s gymnastics has a tendency to turn out some of the biggest stars of the Summer Games. Four years ago, it was Gabby Douglas stealing the spotlight in London, and Shawn Johnson was the biggest name before her. But Biles has the chance to eclipse them all at the Rio Olympics.
America is already doing plenty of work learning about Simone Biles. As the 2016 Rio Olympics kicked off on Friday with the Opening Ceremony, the commercial featuring Biles played prominently and her name became a trending term across social media.
There’s likely to be even more attention for Simone Biles once the women’s gymnastics competition starts on Sunday — and even more after that if she can meet expectations and take home the all-around gold.
[Photo by Rebecca Blackwell/AP Images]