By Pritha Sarkar
RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – There is only one person who appears capable of beating gymnast Simone Biles at the Rio Olympics — Simone Biles.
With an abundance of talent and flair oozing out of every pore of her tiny 1.45 meter frame, she has shown over the past three years as she has piled up numerous records that she has no equal in the sport.
She is already the most successful female gymnast at the world championships with 10 golds and last year became the first woman to complete a three peat of world all around titles.
That she managed to win the all around gold despite making glaring errors on her three strongest apparatus — a wobble on the beam, a tumble out of bounds on the floor and giant hop forward from her Amanar vault landing — was testament to what she can do. And what others can not.
“It taught me that I need to relax a little bit more and not bite into the hype and the pressure that everyone else puts on me,” the 19-year-old told Reuters.
“I guess it proves that my mental (strength) is better than some of my weaknesses that I have.”
Her talent was clear for all to see at the last three world championships — at Antwerp, Nanning and Glasgow — as she flew through the air faster and higher than her rivals.
Those skills also mean the gymnast nicknamed ‘$imoney’ is the overwhelming favorite to complete a feat that no woman has achieved since Ukraine’s Lilia Podkopayeva in 1996 in holding both the world and Olympic all around titles at the same time.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete. She’s ready to do this Olympics,” Romanian great Nadia Comaneci told Reuters.
“Even if she falls down, she can still win because of her high level of difficulty. It needs to be a monumental disaster for her not to win the gold.”
Kerri Strug, a member of the U.S.’s triumphant 1996 ‘Magnificent Seven’ team, was equally as effusive of Biles’ chances in Rio.
“You never want to say anybody is a definite shoo-in but Simone’s performance in the past have been spectacular,” she said.
“And I don’t anticipate her faltering.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)