Alone at the top, Simone Biles inspires teammates
The greatest women's gymnast of all time pushes those around her to be better
Simone Biles has proven that she’s without a rival.
The American artistic gymnastics superstar hasn’t lost an all-around competition since 2013, and with the Olympic Games and all U.S. gymnastics events postponed until 2021, that streak will continue into the foreseeable future.
But it isn’t just that Biles hasn’t lost, it’s that no one has really come close to defeating her. The closest margin of victory at any of Biles’ six global titles (five World all-around gold medals, plus her win at Rio 2016) came way back in 2014 when she held off Romania’s Larisa Iordache by just .466.
Her last three titles have been decided by huge margins, as she took gold ahead of teammate Aly Raisman at the Rio Games by 2.1 points, Japan’s Mai Murakami by 1.693 points at the 2018 Worlds, and China’s Tang Xijing by 2.1 points at the 2019 World Championships.
For the greatest female gymnast of all time, that’s just how she likes it.
“[Having a closer rival] would give me more anxiety,” Biles told Olympic Channel during an interview in January.
That doesn’t mean she hasn’t thought about what it would mean to be on the flip side, stuck competing against the greatest the sport has seen.
“Some of the girls talk about it and they're like, it's just not fair. And sometimes I feel bad. Because I feel like if I weren't here, like, the second, whoever second would win and stuff, so I do feel bad that it's just like plastered everywhere, Simone all the time,” she said. “But I've also worked really hard to get here.”
'I want to be like Simone'
That hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed by her teammates who, instead of finding frustration in running up against a seemingly invincible rival, take only inspiration.
Olympic champion Laurie Hernandez says her Olympic teammate’s history-making efforts are inspiring more than just her fellow gymnasts.
“She's been killing it... so many skills named after her,” said Hernandez, “and especially to be a woman of color out there literally breaking all these different molds. There's so many kids out there – not just little girls, not just little boys, it’s everybody – so many people out there who are looking up to that like she's crazy in the best way possible. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Sunisa Lee, who finished second to Biles at the 2019 U.S. championships, agrees.
“I find it very motivating because she's so good,” Lee told Olympic Channel. “Her difficulty is so much higher than everybody else. So it kind of pushes me to bring whatever I can to the table and kind of push my difficulty, as well because I want to be like Simone.
“And I kind of like the chase, as well. I didn't think that I could be second to Simone,” said Lee, who was just .350 behind Biles at last season’s U.S. World Championships team selection event. “That's just so crazy to me.”
The non-Simone division
Finishing second to Biles has become the new winning. Gymnasts from Raisman, the three time Olympic gold medallist, to 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd have joked about a ‘non-Simone division’ at competitions.
“Even when the coaches talk to us, they’re like, 'Don’t even count Simone. She’s just in her own league,’” said Raisman at the 2016 U.S. championships, according to USA Today.
“Even though her difficulty is so high, she’s able to control it,” Raisman continued. “Usually when you have so much pressure, you see that there’s mistakes and falls. But she just doesn’t fall. She’s just so consistent, and she’s so good.”
After finishing second to Biles on the first day of the U.S. nationals in 2018, Hurd echoed Raisman.
“It does kind of [feel like winning] because she's the greatest of all time," said Hurd. "She's such a legend, and very hard to catch.”