Understanding how Simone Biles became a superathlete

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At 22, Simone Biles is the most decorated female gymnast in history, a four-time world champion who counts Hillary and Chelsea among her fans. But what is it that makes her so damn good?

SMALL BUT MIGHTY

Simone Biles’ 4ft 8in stature helps her flip faster, as shorter people have less inertia (resistance to change in movement). Shorter legs also give gymnasts more space to manoeuvre on the beam and more room to run and jump on the floor.

Simone's tiny stature is an advantage in gymnastics.
Simone Biles: Simone's tiny stature is an advantage in gymnastics.

WHIP SMART

According to her coach, Aimee Boorman, Biles can master new skills in three days where most gymnasts take months or even years. She was first spotted on a field trip to a gym at age six, where she was seen successfully mimicking the girls training there.

FORM AND FUNCTION

Despite her immense strength and muscle mass, Biles weighs just 46kg (7st 3lbs), perfectly balancing the need for muscle to move her frame with the slight weight needed to swing herself around and tumble through the air.

Simone recently became the first woman to land a triple-double.
Gymnast Simone Biles became the first woman to land a triple-double.

HIGH FLYER

At the peak of her floor routines, Biles often sails an estimated 9ft 4in off the ground. That’s more than double her height and several feet above her rivals. All that time in the air is what allows her to pull off her gravity-defying twirls, somersaults and flips.

Simone Biles
Simone Biles competing in the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Germany this week.

MAKING HISTORY

She recently became the first woman ever to land the mind-boggling triple-double (three twists and two flips in mid-air, a move that’s now named after her), with a launch speed of 5.78 metres per second – that’s 13 miles per hour.

Photography: Danielle Levitt, Getty

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