She may be the shortest member of the U.S. delegation but Simone Biles is definitely not the weakest competitor. In fact, the gymnast is one of the best on the squad. The 19-year-old Texas native has won three world championships and recently did a full twisting double back that made fellow athletes stand in awe of her talent.
“I know exactly how difficult that move is because I worked so long and so hard on it,” says 1996 Olympian Shannon Miller. “When Simone does it, you just get so jealous because she just floats.”
Biles exhibits incredible confidence during her performances. The gymnast, however, wasn’t always as poised. Simone’s mother, Nellie, tells TIME that her daughter’s first meet was challenging. “She said she heard every noise, everyone yelling in the arena, and she couldn’t get focused,” Nellie says. Simone was pulled from the event by her coach and given more chances to practice before competing again.
Now, the young star is unstoppable. “Typically gymnastics careers have peaks and valleys, but Simone has blown that apart,” Shannon says. “She’s like, You know what, I’m just going to hang out at the top, I’m good here.”
Simone also comments on her success. “I have everything I need, and I don’t feel like there are any blanks in my life left unfilled,” she shares. See what else the star athlete has to say about her career and personal life in the latest issue of TIME magazine.