The Rio 2016 Olympics are underway, and the United States is already leading the medal pack with 12 of the honors. Last night (August 7), the world was treated with a performance from a gymnast who is sure to add to that total before the summer games conclude. Simone Biles, a 19-year-old Black gymnast from Spring, Texas, put up the top scores for three of her four events: floor, vault and balance beam, for a total qualification round score of 62.355—nearly points higher than the next gymnast, teammate Aly Raisman.
In case you missed Biles’ incredible performance, take a quick look at her floor routine here.
It’s impossible to see Biles—who is routinely called the best gymnast in the world—and not want to know more about her. From her views on race to a scientific breakdown on what makes her so damn magical, we have four articles you must read before her next performance tomorrow (August 8).
The Fine Line: Simone Biles Gymnastics
This massive interactive story from The New York Times features photos and videos of her in action, paired with expert quotes and facts about her career, such as the fact that she has won the most gold medals of any gymnast in the history of the world championships. From home videos of her tumbling to digital breakdowns of her hardest moves, it shows just what all the hype is about.
The Difficulty of Being Simone Biles
In this profile from The Undefeated, published ahead of the Olympics, writer Lonnae O’Neal delves into how race impacts how the sport views her—and how she views herself. From the story:
Simone says race has never been an issue for her, or a problem, or something she has especially thought about. Asked if she’s happy to inspire other girls of color, she says she is, but “then again, to me, I feel like I’m just Simone.
“I never think of it as, ‘Oh, I’m the first African-American to win [the world championship],” Biles adds. “Everyone just shoves that in our heads. I never think, like, ‘Oh my gosh, I am the first this, I’m the first that.’ I just do my gymnastics because I like to have fun. I don’t bring race into it.”
America’s Painful Journey From Prejudice to Greatness in Women’s Gymnastics
ThinkProgress charts the history of people of color in gymnastics and the barriers—lack of support, isolation, cost, prejudice, a dearth of representation—that often keep young gymnasts out of the sport. Writers Lindsay Gibbs and Celisa Calacal also talk to lesser known gymnasts about why it matters that young girls and boys can see pros like Biles, Gabby Douglas and Laurie Hernandez compete. Says former gymnast and current coach Zerrell Johnson Welch: “The idea of seeing someone that looks like you is so profound, and it has such an impact on your understanding of what you potentially can be.”
The Mind-Blowing Athleticism of Simone Biles
The New Yorker put together a video breakdown of why Biles is the best in the world.