Why Simone Biles Is the Michael Jordan of Gymnastics – And How She's Still a Typical Teen
At just 19 years old, Simone Biles is already being called the Michael Jordan of gymnastics.
If all goes as planned at the U.S. Olympic Trials Friday and Sunday, Biles (the heavy favorite who often wins all-around competitions by a staggering 3-4 full points) will head to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in August – but not without the pressure of being compared to one of sport’s biggest legends.
“It’s an amazing feeling because he’s one of the greatest of all time, not just in basketball,” Biles told PEOPLE of Jordan at the Team USA Media Summit in March in Los Angeles. “To be compared to him is just amazing and I still can’t believe it.”
“I used to think they called me the Michael Jordan because I stick my tongue out in gymnastics it kind of slips out,” she said.
But there’s more to it, according to The New Yorker – her comparison to the basketball icon is all thanks to her ability to escape gravity.
Biles is fresh off of a record-breaking performance at the 2016 P&> Championships in June. She won her fourth consecutive national title – a feat not accomplished by a woman in more than 40 years. She also won gold medals in three of the four individual events.
Biles works hard to maintain her talent, though – and her rock-solid frame.
“I train 32 hours a week and get Sundays off,” she said. “On Tuesday, Thursday, Friday I do two-a-days, which is two workouts. Then the other days I do one workout.”
Her dedication may have landed her three straight world championships – and status as the first female gymnast to do so. But the schedule has cost her an important milestone: her high school prom.
“I was homeschooled and whenever you’re doing gymnastics you’re doing 32 hours a week,” Biles said of training at the elite level. “I have friends, but I missed all of it because I was at a meet.”
Despite her hours of training – and being a world champion – Biles is still a regular teenager.
The athlete said she goes on “girl dates” with her friends and loves Justin Bieber. But her love for the Biebs pales in comparison to her affection for another heartthrob.
“I have a celebrity crush on Zac Efron. He has very good looks and I’ve heard he’s nice,” she said, noting what she would do if she ever met the actor.
“I would say ‘Hi, I’m Simone’ and then pass out!’
The 2016 Olympic Games kick off on Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.