Memo to women’s gymnastics also-rans: If you want any chance of winning gold at this summer’s Olympics in Rio, carry an angrily buzzing bee. And stand very close to Simone Biles.
That might be the only hope of stopping Biles, the toe-pointing, triple-twisting juggernaut out of Texas. Just 18 and standing all of 4 feet 9, she’s won the individual all-around title at the World Gymnastics Championships for three straight years.
No other female competitor has ever done that. Before her, no African-American had won the title once. Not even 2012 Olympic all-around champ Gabby Douglas (aka “the Flying Squirrel”), who actually finished second to Biles in 2015 by almost 1.1 points — a rout in gymnastics.
“She’s like the first person in space,” Jessica O’Beirne of the influential GymCastic podcast said about Biles, whose soaring achievements and sky-high tumbling have earned her a GIF with the empowering hashtag #youfliplikeagirl.
Born in Ohio to a mother who struggled with addiction, Biles was legally adopted and raised by her grandparents. She’s deferred entering UCLA to prep for the Olympics, where she’ll try to keep her undefeated-in-international-all-arounds record intact.
The closest thing to a hiccup came during the awards ceremony for her second title in 2014. A bee somehow got into the bouquet of flowers she received along with her gold medal. The usually poised Biles tried to flee, resulting in a hilarious video that went viral.
At one point, she found refuge on the podium of runner-up (and close friend) Larisa Iordache of Romania.
It could be the closest Biles ever comes to second place.