Gymnastics: Diminutive Biles stands tall among greats

Thu Aug 11, 2016 10:38pm EDT
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By Pritha Sarkar

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - When Simone Biles stood on her bare feet ready to mount the balance beam on Thursday, it seemed like she would need to get on her tiptoes to peer over the 1.25 meter (4.1 feet) apparatus.

But what the 1.45 meter Biles lacks in height, she more than makes up in stature.

The American stood head and shoulders above all her rivals on Thursday after she was crowned Olympic all-around champion.

For American team co-ordinator Marta Karolyi, who has enjoyed a five-decade coaching career, there is only one other gymnast who can be compared to Biles.

"She is right on the top," Karolyi, who along with her husband Bela steered Romanian Nadia Comaneci to the first perfect 10 at the 1976 Olympics, told reporters.

"Along with Nadia ... both of them. For me, the first Olympic champion and the last Olympic champion they are together. They are special," added the 73-year-old, who will retire from coaching after the Rio Games.

That puts Biles above many great gymnasts that Karolyi has worked with in a long and distinguished career.

She helped Mary Lou Retton to become the first American to win an Olympic all-around gold in 1984, had a hand in Kerri Strug's heroic vault at the 1996 Games and guided Olympic all-around champions Nastia Liukin and Gabby Douglas among others.   Continued...

Simone Biles of USA celebrates winning gold in the women's gymnastics individual all-around final. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez