Joanna Rowell | Staff Writer
Although Gabby Douglas is considered to be “the face of gymnastics” since her performance in 2012 Summer Olympics, there is a new gymnast on the scene. Simone Biles, an 18 year old, two-time all-around world champion is now considered, by experts, to be Douglas’ main competitor.
On December 2, Sports Illustrated published an article stating why Biles deserved to win the magazine’s coveted Sportsman of the Year Award. Biles is one of four women on the list of twelve candidates and, along with Serena Williams, is the second African-American woman on the list. Biles could become the first woman since 2011 to win the award.
Since she began competing in World Championships in 2013, Biles is already considered the most decorated American female gymnast in the event’s history, with fourteen medals, ten of which are gold. Biles’ ten medals gave her the record for most gold medals won by a female gymnast in the history of the World Championships.
She also hold the distinction of being the first African-American to be world all-around champion and the first woman to win three consecutive world all-around titles.
While Biles is now no stranger to international competition and the world is becoming more familiar with her, there was a time when she had to deal with some adversity before reaching that level.
In 2013, when Biles was 16, Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito said, in an interview after the World Championships in Belgium, “I told Vanessa [teammate Vanessa Ferrari] that next time we should also paint our skin black, so then we could win too.” Italian Gymnastics Federation spokesperson David Ciaralli defended Ferlito after her comments, saying she “was referring to a trend in gymnastics at this moment, which is going towards a technique that opens up new chances to athletes of color.” Ciarelli went onto say that she was also not racist.
Ferlito, who criticized Biles’ performance as well, apologized for the comments a few days later. Now, two years later, Biles has outperformed anyone’s expectations and continues to reach new heights.
She, along with Douglas, can also add her affiliation and sponsorship with Nike, which was announced on November 11, to her list of achievements. The two competitors were teammates on October 27 in Glasgow, Great Britain at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, where they made history with their win, making it the first time they have won three consecutive world team titles.
Although they are being painted as rivals, Douglas made it clear, in an interview with USA Today in October, that the two felt nothing more than playful competition between them. “Me and Simone, we really wanted to go out here and just have fun. We’re like, ‘Let’s crush it!,” said Douglas after the Glasgow event. “We just really wanted to enjoy it because it goes by so fast.”
As we approach the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, it is becoming clear that Douglas and her heir apparent Biles are getting ready to take the world by storm.