Simone Biles might be the best gymnast we have ever seen, and is certainly the most dominant gymnast right now. She has won the last three world all-around titles (and is the first woman to do so), leading up to the Rio Olympics.
I’ve looked for the reasons she is so successful; some can be duplicated while others just can’t. Here are 10 reasons why Simone Biles is such a successful gymnast:
She learns new skills quickly.
Her coach Aimee Boorman said “I would say it’s probably no more than three days that it takes her to achieve a new skill. Many athletes–it takes them years.” The fact that Simone Biles learns new skills quickly is an example of her natural aptitude for the sport. This helped her progress through the levels faster than most.
She has a powerful run.
Simone Biles has a powerful run that allows her to achieve incredible dynamics when she tumbles on floor and when she vaults. On floor she needs less of a run than other gymnastics, because her run is so powerful. And on vault her powerful run allows her to do incredibly difficult vaults well.
Simone’s coach Aimee Boorman was quoted saying “Simone doesn’t require a lot of run into her tumbling skills, so she can fit a longer pass onto the floor than a lot of athletes.” One example of how this really benefits her is that after she does her skill “the Biles” she is able to do a jump right after, giving her difficulty bonus points. Other gymnasts wouldn’t be able to fit the jump inside the floor exercise area, and so wouldn’t be able to earn the bonus.
She has barely grown in the last 3 years.
When gymnasts go through growth-spurts, they sometimes have to relearn old skills. The change in their height and body proportions makes them have to re-evaluate their timing and the mechanics of the skill. Kyla Ross was the youngest member of the 2012 US Olympic team (she was only 15 at the time) and had hopes of competing in Rio. However she grew four and a half inches and retired from elite gymnastics at 19 years old. The fact that Simone Biles has barely grown in the last three years means she hasn’t had to deal with this challenge. She has just been able to keep learning new skills.
She was homeschooled to allow her to train 32 hours/week.
Simone Biles started homeschooling when she was 13, which enabled her to train 32 hours a week. Before she started homeschooling she was training 20 hours a week, and she attributes the increase in training time to her career taking off.
In my article, How to Become an Olympic Gymnast, I examine how training many hours per week is one of the key components of becoming a successful gymnast. Each of the 2016 Olympic Gymnastics team members train for at least 30 hours a week. It’s hard to have the time to train that many hours while going to school all day.
She works out hard.
Simone Biles compares getting in shape for competing gymnastics as “repeatedly convincing yourself you aren’t going to die.” That sounds to me like someone who really knows how to push herself. I know sometimes it’s easy to think in the middle of a hard workout, that others achieve without great effort, but this is simply not the case. When Biles is competing she may make it look effortless, but she is putting in the hard workouts at the gym.
Training 32 hours a week doesn’t come without sacrifice. She is willing to put in the hours and effort instead of doing normal teenage activities, like hanging out with her friends.
She has mental strength.
Biles obviously does some kind of mental workout. I say this because in 2013 she performed poorly at the Secret U.S. Classic. She fell several times and her coach, Aimee Boorman pulled her from the competition. After her poor performance she started meeting with a sports psychologist and three weeks later won the U.S. championship.
I examine in my article, The Mental Workout All Gymnasts Should be Doing, mental strategies that you can do to improve your performance. Visualization, self talk, setting the right goals, and breathing strategies can all help you become more successful. The fact that Simone Biles consistently hits most of her routines in competition is a testament to how well she has prepared both physically and mentally. She doesn’t seem to let the stress of a competition get to her.
She has a positive attitude.
She was born to a drug-addicted mother and was adopted by her grandfather and his wife when she was only 3 years old. Some people might use adoption and having a biological mother who is MIA as an excuse to not have a positive attitude, and to not excel. However, Biles chooses to focus on the positive, and the great family she has with her adoptive parents. When asked about her biological mom, she says “I have everything I need so there are no blanks left unfilled. I never felt I had questions or needed answers or had a part of me that was missing.”
Her positive attitude is evident in Rio where she can often be seen encouraging and supporting her other teammates. I’m sure this positive attitude also helps her to stay motivated even if she has a bad practice, or a meet that she didn’t do as well as she would have liked.
She is humble.
Simone Biles was quoted saying “People say I’m the best, but I still don’t think that. I guess if I go to the Olympics and do well, maybe I’ll believe it.” She already competes some of the hardest skills in the world, one example of this is her beam dismount. She currently competes a full twisting double back somersault dismount. She could have the attitude that she alone does the hardest dismount in the world, why bother trying to do more? However, her humble attitude leads her to constantly try to push and do harder skills. Her coach uploaded a video of her attempting a double twisting double back somersault dismount. Even when she is currently doing the best, she is attempting to do more.
She fights for every tenth.
Even though she has such difficulty in her routines that she could probably easily win all-around at many meets, she still fights for every tenth. When you watch her routines compared to some of her peers this is obvious. All of her leaps and turns are precise and her dance moves performed in high relevé. The reason that she routinely wins by such big margins is that she combines both her extreme difficulty with beautiful, clean execution.
She has incredible showmanship.
As we discussed in reason number 9 that Simone Biles is so successful, she doesn’t have to go the proverbial extra mile in order to win since she has such difficulty in her routines, but she still puts on a beautiful performance. She smiles and legitimately seems like she is having a good time while she performs. I love Gabby Douglas as much as the next person, but as I was watching her perform on the Qualifying day at the Olympics I thought to myself that it didn’t even look like she wanted to be there. She didn’t smile or look like she was having fun. It makes the routines so much more enjoyable to watch when it seems like the competitor is having a good time.
I hope watching Simone Biles perform motivates you to be the best gymnast or person that you can be. I know when I watch someone as dominant as she is, that got there by being hard-working and humble, I feel like I can do better in all aspects of my life!