Simone Biles never competed in the Olympics before the 2016 Rio Games, but she is dominating this year’s competition as many thought she would. Arguably among the greatest female gymnasts in history, Biles is gearing up to take home multiple gold medals.
When Team USA goes for gold on Tuesday afternoon in the women’s team final, they’ll be led by the 19-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, who has been virtually flawless. Biles gave the United States an incredible 10-point advantage over second-place China in qualification on Sunday, prior to the team’s final on Tuesday. China, Russia, Great Britain and Brazil were all separated by less than 1.3 points.
Biles has been dominating gymnastics ever since she made her senior debut in 2013. She wasn’t old enough to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, but she’s already set a record for American women by winning 14 total world championship medals. Biles has won four consecutive all-around titles at the U.S. national championships, becoming the first female gymnast to accomplish such a feat since 1974.
Four gymnasts have won four gold medals in a single Olympics, and Biles could become the first ever female to achieve five first-place finishes. Her qualification scores in floor exercise, vault, balance beam and all-around were the highest of any single competitor in the field. Biles is favored to take home the gold in every event, as well as the team competition.
Experts are in awe of Biles and her potential. Former U.S. Olympic gymnast Tim Daggett, who current serves as an analyst for NBC, said "You run out of adjectives when you are talking about Simone Biles."
It's quite possible Biles will be the top story of the Rio Games. The charming phenom, who stands at 4-foot-9, might challenge some all-time greats as the Olympics' most decorated female athlete. East German swimmer Kristin Otto holds the record with six gold medals in one Olympics, setting the mark at the 1988 Summer Games. No other woman has ever taken home five golds in one Olympics. Gymnast Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union won 18 total medals, including nine gold, over three Olympics (1956, 1960, 1964), and her closest competition was Vera Caslavska of Czechoslovakia, who won 11.
Biles was raised in a suburb of Houston by her maternal grandfather, Ron, and his second wife, Nellie. While Biles’ athletic performance has dominated much of the Olympic headlines, the issue of who raised her has also created some news. NBC’s Al Trautwig was forced to apologize when he caused some controversy by saying Biles’ grandparents were not her parents, even though they had adopted her.
“I regret that I wasn’t more clear in my wording on the air,” Trautwig said in a statement. “I compounded the error on Twitter, which I quickly corrected. To set the record straight, Ron and Nellie are Simone’s parents.”
After Tuesday’s finals, Biles’ name should be mentioned among the great U.S. competitors in Olympic history.