This article appeared in the May 26, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Simone Biles and an irresistible opportunity to grow

AJ Mast/AP
Simone Biles performs her balance beam routine during the U.S. Classic gymnastics competition in Indianapolis, May 22, 2021.
Trudy Palmer
Cover Story Editor

As I recall, I did finally master doing a cartwheel as a kid. I know for a fact, I could somersault – and still can, for that matter. That’s not much to crow about, I know. But it’s all the more reason I’m curious what makes superstar gymnast Simone Biles tick.

Last weekend, she became the first female athlete to land a Yurchenko double pike in vault during a competition.

What’s behind the kind of drive that leads her to execute moves so extraordinary that, so far, four are named after her? According to her coaches, Cecile and Laurent Landi, being motivated from within is key to her success. 

“We saw in her eyes that she wanted to do it for a good reason,” Mr. Landi told The Washington Post. “It wasn’t from the pressure of anyone else." 

Speaking more generally, he added, “If deep inside them they want to be successful, and they love the sport, they will find a way to get better.”

Simone Biles … better? A five-time Olympic medalist, she has won every all-around competition she’s entered and is the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in world championships. We’ll have to wait until the Olympics to see whether the double pike becomes Ms. Biles’ fifth eponymous move.

But clearly, the right motive and a love of the sport create room to grow. That’s how last weekend’s first-ever feat came about. Ms. Biles tried it years ago “just to play around,” she told another Washington Post reporter. “Never in a million years did I think it was going to be feasible,” she said. 

As she grew stronger, though, it came within reach – and she couldn’t resist.

This article appeared in the May 26, 2021 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/26 edition
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