Even with three world championships and four national titles under her belt, Simone Biles didn’t want to get ahead of herself at the U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials.
So she held off the celebration until her name was called late Sunday night in San Jose, Calif., as an official member of the U.S. Olympic team.
“It’s very unreal,” Biles said, according to The Associated Press. “I’m sure it will hit me.”
The 19-year-old will be joined in Rio by defending Olympic champion Gabby Douglas, three-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman and newcomers Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez.
They head to Brazil with high expectations. The national team that coordinator Martha Karolyi has built is described as the gymnastics equivalent of the Dream Team that won basketball gold with Michael Jordan 24 years ago.
The Americans haven’t lost a major international competition in six years, much of that because of Biles’ contributions.
There is no other like her. She is known as the Tom Brady/LeBron James of women’s gymnastics in the United States.
If you don’t know her name, now’s the time to get to know it because she probably will bring home a chestful of gold medals from Rio.
“She is as dominant as Michael Jordan was when he was on the top of his game. She is as dominant as LeBron James. She is as dominant as Tom Brady. She is as dominant as any athlete in any sport,” gushes Steve Penny, the president of USA Gymnastics.
Olympic gold medalist gymnast Mary Lou Retton has called Biles the top gymnast in history, the best she’s ever seen.
When coaches talk to other gymnasts, Bile’s Olympic teammate Aly Raisman told USA Today, “they’re like: ‘Don’t even count Simone. She’s just in her own league.’”
Biles is expected to win gold in the all-around in Rio. So here are a dozen things to know about her before she does.
1. You can get to know her on Twitter (@Simone_Biles) and Instagram (simonebiles). She loves social media. The mainstream media? That’s another story. The media keep reminding her about the so-called Olympic jinx: that only three reigning female world champions have gone on to win the Olympic title.
“That’s all the media cares about right now, whether I’m going to break some Olympic jinx that I’ve never even heard of,” Biles told Texas Monthly recently, rolling her eyes. “It was never my deal to break that. But I guess I have to now, because you guys said I have to.”
2. When she was 2, Biles and three siblings were placed in foster care because their mother struggled with drugs and alcohol, according to The New Yorker. Her grandfather, Ron Biles, a retired air traffic controller who is now her manager, and his second wife, Nellie, took in the children. They adopted Biles and her younger sister in 2003.
3. The family built her a gym. In 2013 Biles’ longtime coach, Aimee Boorman, told the family she wanted to leave her old gym and suggested that Ron and Nellie build one themselves. The New Yorker describes the gym — the World Champions Centre — as “a gymnastics Valhalla.” Simone and her family live just 10 minutes away from it in the prosperous Houston suburb of Spring, Texas.
4. She is 4 feet 9 inches tall and is so bouncy that people joke that she has springs for joints. She is “a natural tumbler, with power and explosiveness that’s never been seen before,” USA Today wrote after she won the national title over the weekend. “On floor exercise, her first pass was so huge a small SUV could have driven beneath her and still had an inch or two to spare.”
5. She’s known for her infectious giggle and smile, which caused ESPN to dub her the “most talented and hilarious” gymnast in the world.
“Biles smiled nearly the whole way through her floor exercise on both days of nationals, as if she were dancing barefoot on the lawn of her backyard, with no one watching,” the New York Times wrote about her St. Louis performance.
She told the Times that gymnastics is a “very good sport because you get to smile a lot if you want to, rather than running around on a basketball court or something, where it’s kind of hard to run around and smile. So I like the personality of this sport.”
6. She fell in love with gymnastics when she was 6 and her day-care class visited a gym. She was so excited by the tricks the older girls were doing she started doing them too — impeccably. “The next week I started” gymnastics, she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2014. At age 6 she was doing backflips. At 7 she was trying to do backflips on the balance beam.
7. She has a gymnastics element named after her — a double layout with a half twist called “The Biles.” She did it for the first time at the 2013 World Championships.
8. Three words: Shopping. Nails. Netflix.
9. Party? What’s that? Her life revolves so much around her sport and her teammates that she told online magazine Ozy in 2014 that “I’ve never been to a party, like, ever. I don’t even know what they do there.”
10. She became a viral video star at the world championships in Nanning, China, when she swatted at and ran from a bee that was in the bouquet of flowers given to her on the medal podium.
11. Her face appears on billboards around Houston. Expect to see her in commercials for some of her corporate sponsors, which include Nike, Kellogg’s and Core Power. She’s already in commercials for NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, doing the samba with a bunch of Carnivale dancers.
12. If she wins three medals in Rio, she will become the most decorated American gymnast of all time. “I feel absolutely terrible saying this,” Paul Ziert, the publisher of International Gymnast, told The New Yorker. “But if she doesn’t win five of the six Olympic gold medals it would be a disappointment.”