Simone Biles won her third U.S. championship Saturday night – get to know the frontrunner gymnast for the Rio Olympics

By Rennie Dyball
Updated August 17, 2015 10:35 AM
Credit: AJ Mast/AP

There was a time in elite gymnastics when a fall was catastrophic in competition. Simone Biles fell on a tumbling pass at the P&> Championships, which wrapped Saturday night, but she went on to win the meet.

By the second largest margin in history.

The 18-year-old, 4’9″ Biles is that good, earning her third consecutive U.S. national title this weekend – and the unofficial title of Olympic frontrunner for next year’s Games in Rio – thanks to the superior level of difficulty in her routines.

“I just keep surprising myself, I guess!” Biles said after the competition. She joins Kim Zmeskal as the second U.S. gymnast to earn three national titles. Biles called it “really an honor because I look up to her.”

Her plan to bounce back from the initial, uncharacteristic error? “To go back and think about training and just let the stress go,” says Biles, who beat second place Maggie Nichols by 4.950 points. (Gold medal-winning 2012 Olympians Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas were third and fifth respectively, followed by Kyla Ross in tenth). “I know I was prepared and trained to do this.”

Former Olympian and current commentator Tim Daggett said Biles’ all-around score of 63 at the meet “will send shockwaves and shivers to the rest of the world. She is so far and away the best gymnast on planet earth.”

Here are five more things to know about the back-to-back World Champion who is eyeing an Olympic bid:

1. She was discovered on a daycare field trip to a gym
At six years old, Biles went on a field trip to Bannon’s Gymnastix. According to her Website bio: “She was having fun and started copying other gymnasts at the back of the gym. One of the coaches, Ms. Ronnie saw her and told Coach Aimee. They sent a letter home to her parents. Simone started taking recreational classes and the rest is history.”

2. She doesn’t buy into the hype

Aimee Boorman, Biles’ lifelong coach, said her history-making athlete is rather modest. “It’s interesting – she doesn t really see herself as being amazing,” Boorman said, per USA Today. “She just sees herself as a gymnast and she puts other people up on a pedestal and she’s not one of the people she puts on a pedestal.”

3. She may face a curse heading into Rio
In six out of the last seven Olympic Games, the woman who was world champion the previous year went on to lose the Olympic all-around title, according to the Wall Street Journal. Among those women: Zmeskal, Shawn Johnson and Jordyn Wieber. But national team coordinator Marta Karolyi is not concerned that Biles has peaked too soon. “She is not even in her peak shape yet, so no,” Karolyi said, per USA Today. “She’s not early peaked.”

4. She’s fearless in the gym – but ‘terrified’ of bugs

Biles won the World Championship all-around title in 2014 – and a bee in her congratulatory bouquet joined in on the celebration. “Seeing those pictures, I was crying, laughing,” Biles told ESPN. “I just remember thinking that I have never been stung by a bee, so get away from this thing. And I was like, try not to make a scene. I’m terrified of bugs, so, ‘Stay calm, Simone, shake it off, shake it off, it’s OK.’ Obviously that didn’t happen cause I ended up running around the podium like a psycho.”

5. She met her gymnastics BFF through social media
Biles is close friends with 18-year-old Alec Yoder, an underdog trying to make his way to Rio as well. According to IndyStar, Yoder followed Biles on Twitter, she followed him back, and they’ve been buddies ever since. “To me it’s nice to have a best friend that’s as nice and as cool as she is,” said Yoder. “She’s definitely a likeable person that everyone loves.”