2016 Will Be the Year You Keep Hearing About Gymnast Simone Biles
She's not yet a household name, but will be soon.
Last week, the U.S. Olympic Committee named Simone Biles its Team USA Female Olympic Athlete of the Year, beating out nine-time World Champion swimmer Katie Ledecky and tennis superstar Serena Williams, according to USA Today.
It's OK if you're not sure who we're talking about.
Biles is an 18-year-old gymnast from Texas who started her elite career in 2013, the year after the London Olympics. Since gymnastics gets little attention during the years in between the Olympics, Biles is not yet a household name—but she will be. Barring catastrophe, this 18-year-old Texan—who is the LeBron James of gymnastics—is all but guaranteed to be the breakout star of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Let us count the reasons why:
She's on a winning streak
Biles hasn't lost the all-around category at a meet since March 2013, when she took home the silver medal at the American Cup. Since then, it's been gold after gold after gold, including three straight World and National all-around titles. Biles is the first African American to be world all-around champion, and only the second woman to win three consecutive world titles—a feat that had not been accomplished since 1992.
She's already the most decorated gymnast of all time
Despite only three international appearances and no Olympics (yet), Biles has earned more World medals than any other gymnast—ever—with 10 golds, and 14 medals in total.
Biles is so dominant that other gymnasts joke that they've given up trying to catch her. “All, the girls are like, 'Simone’s just in her own league. Whoever gets second place, that’s the winner. Simone gets her own super first place,'" said Aly Raisman, double Olympic gold medalist, in an interview with USA Today. “Even the coaches joke about it.”
She has a heartwarming backstory
Born in 1997 in Columbus, Ohio to a mother who struggled on and off with drugs and alcohol, Biles spent time in foster care before being taken in by her grandparents in Houston at age 3. Her grandparents later adopted her and her younger sister, Adria. Today, Biles calls them "Mom" and "Dad."
Biles discovered gymnastics at age 6—though you could also say gymnastics discovered her. On a daycare field trip to a local gymnastics center, a coach spotted her copying gymnasts and sent a letter home encouraging her parents to sign her up for classes.
She has a super-difficult move named after her
At the 2013 World Championships, Biles debuted a double layout with a half twist. She's the first woman to ever complete this insanely challenging trick in international competition, which means the move is now named after her.
She's a team player
Everyone on Team USA has their eyes on the prize, but regardless, they have each other’s backs—and Biles is no exception. Watch a meet on TV, and you'll see Biles cheering on her teammates and hugging them after they complete their routines. And in post-competition interviews, Biles always credits her teammates for their hard work.