Biles leaves idol in shade in glory pursuit

Thu Oct 22, 2015 1:08pm EDT
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By Pritha Sarkar

LONDON (Reuters) - With a catchy nickname, a megawatt smile and a rapidly growing medal collection, Simone Biles already bears all the hallmarks of a champion athlete.

Over the next week the 18-year-old gymnast, who has been nicknamed '$imoney', will be the overwhelming favorite to complete a feat at the world championships that no woman has ever achieved -- winning a third all-around title in a row.

Not bad for a competitor who grew up wanting to be a 'mini-me' of Alicia Sacramone -- a gymnast who rather unfortunately tends to be remembered for costing the United States a team gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after making mistakes on the floor and balance beam.

"My favorite was Alicia Sacramone because I wasn’t good on (asymmetrical) bars and she never did bars," Biles told Reuters in an interview as she completed her final preparations for the Oct. 23-Nov. 1 world championships at Glasgow's Hydro Arena.

"When I was growing up I was like, 'Since I can’t do bars and I’m bad at it, I’m just going to do what Alicia does'.

"So I thought I was going to be exactly like her and be specialist on three events."

However, thanks to the encouragement of her lifelong coach, Aimee Boorman, Biles overcame her mental block on the bars to become such a force in the sport that her rivals now think she is "wired like a robot".

That precision was clear for all to see in Antwerp and Nanning over the past two years as she flew through the air faster and higher than her rivals on all four apparatus, completing her acrobatic tumbles with solid landings.   Continued...

Simone Biles competes in the open floor exercise during the P&G gymnastics championships at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports