Biles poised to leap into Rio spotlight

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 16, 2014 4:37 PM

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Her training headquarters is a small warehouse in Spring, Texas, but bigger things are expected for petite gymnast Simone Biles, who is on track to become a darling of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The powerfully-built 4-foot-9 American is back from Nanning, China, where last weekend she won four world championship gold medals including her second straight all-around title.

"I've proven to myself that I can do it, so I think that proves a lot," Biles, 17, said on Thursday during a conference call. "It gives me a lot of confidence."

She and some 20 other girls are training in the makeshift space while her parents proceed with plans to build an expansive permanent facility.

Biles combines explosive power in her dynamic floor exercise, vaults and on the beam with a world championship smile and obvious joy for the sport.

Nastia Liukin, the 2008 Olympic all-around champion, forecasts even greater success and impact by Biles.

"I really think she's one of a kind," Liukin told reporters on Wednesday before handing Biles the Sportswoman of the Year from the Women's Sports Foundation at a New York gala.

"She's just so lighthearted, laughing all the time," added Liukin. "She shows she truly loves the sport. She’s going to be a great role model for so many little kids when they see how happy and excited she is to compete and to perform."

Biles took up gymnastics at six following a daycare trip to a gym after relocating to the Houston area from Columbus, Ohio, to live with her grandparents, who later adopted her.

Despite her fame in the gymnastics world, she maintains a relatively low profile.

"I haven't gotten recognized once," she said when asked if she had been spotted during her visit to New York. "Other than at the event last night, by some kids."

Liukin said that will change.

"The pressure is going to raise," she said. "Obviously as we get closer to Rio there will be more eyes on her. A lot of people don’t really know who she is quite yet."

Biles, who already has a move named after her -- a double double layout with a half turn known as 'The Biles' -- is unconcerned. "Pressure, I don't let it get to me," she said.

A fear of bees, however, does.

When Biles was on the podium for a gold medal presentation in China a bee flew out of her bouquet and went on the attack, prompting her to scream and hop off and back onto the podium to avoid a sting.

A video of the incident hit the Internet and went viral.

"That day I had talked about how I haven't seen one living thing here in China. Haven't seen a bird fly, anything, and then that night a bee attacks me," said the home-schooled Biles, who became the first black all-around world champion in 2013. "So I was like, OK, that was probably karma."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)