Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Aug 9, 2016 / 02:02 am
Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky are two of the names to know in this year's summer Olympic games in Rio.
Biles, a record-shattering gymnast with a sparkling smile and bubbly energy that shines through her routines, is the U.S. gymnastics team fan favorite and the gymnast to beat for any chance at the gold.
"Biles competes with a joy and abandon that has been lacking in women’s gymnastics in recent years," wrote Liz Clarke for the Washington Post. "All too often, grim-faced pony-tailed youngsters clench their jaws, furrow their brows and inhale an ocean’s worth of air before hurtling into rigorous tumbling passes. Their feats may be acrobatically eye-popping, but the strain of pulling them off is palpable.”
"Biles, by contrast, exudes utter delight, competing as if the four-inch-wide balance beam is the sidewalk in front of her house, the vault and uneven bars mere elements of her backyard swing-set and the mat a magic carpet for high-flying fun," Clarke wrote.
The Texas teenager is a four-time national champion and the first female gymnast in history to win three consecutive world championships. The complex moves written into her Rio routines - including her signature series of flips now called "The Biles" - give her an edge before she even performs.
But behind her jaw-dropping performances is a strong family and faith life that Biles (literally) carries with her.
In a recent interview with Us Magazine, the athlete unpacked her Olympic bag, explaining the significance of each item. Along with her bottled water, bobby pins, Beats headphones and cheetah-print umbrella, Biles carries a white rosary.
"My mom, Nellie, got me a rosary at church," she told the magazine. "I don't use it to pray before a competition. I'll just pray normally to myself, but it's there just in case."