It made sense that Buzz Aldrin, a man who has walked on the moon and lived without gravity, was in Rio to watch a teenage compatriot defy the earth’s forces like no other athlete in history.
The former astronaut cheered as the United States won the women’s gymnastics team title on Tuesday and saluted the special quintet, one of whom was the extraordinary Simone Biles.
Biles, the innovator, the ground-breaker, is a gymnast who comes along every other generation or so – a 19-year-old hailed as the most talented anyone has seen. She is already a superstar of her sport and, by the time the Olympic flame is extinguished, is likely to orbit the same space as the planet’s most recognisable stars.
This 4ft 8in gymnast from Texas, placed into foster care because of her mother’s struggles with drugs and alcohol and adopted when she was five by her maternal grandfather and his wife, has already won two Olympic golds at her debut Games.
She could win five. She is expected to win five. She is almost untouchable.
Simone Biles is the star of Rio Olympics. But what I liked most was not her magnificent performance at the games, but what she said in an interview.
Following her incredible performance in the women’s all around finals in gymnastics on August 11, Simone Biles found it necessary to clear the air about one tiny detail.
Perhaps anticipating any breathless commentary from the press who often find it necessary to compare a woman’s achievements in athletics to that of a man’s, Biles took control of her own narrative. In an interview following her remarkable performance in the women’s all around, she said “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”
She did not want to be known in comparison to a celebrity male athlete. She wants to be known as herself. I salute her personality and confidence.