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NEWS FEATURE US gymnast Biles triumphs in Rio, but refuses to wear the crown By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, dpa

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She is a breakout star of the Rio Olympics and has already been added by some to the Pantheon of gymnastics. But Simone Biles does not believe she is anything special.

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Commentators had branded Simone Biles a gymnastics heroine long before she made her Olympic debut. With two gold medals now under her belt in Rio, the assertion that she is the greatest female gymnast of all time is gaining traction.

But does she believe it?

"No," the 19-year-old told journalists in Rio on Thursday after triumphing in the all-around competition. "I just do my gymnastics."

The bubbly teenager is making her mark on the sport not just with flawless routines, but also unusual modesty. Many of her competitors do in fact believe that she is a trailblazer.

"She‘s definitely the best female gymnast who has ever been," Canadian gymnast Elsabeth Black said.

Legendary Hungarian-Romanian coach Marta Karolyi, who took Biles under her wing, described the teenager Thursday as "a force of nature."

"No one goes into this thinking they can beat Simone," fellow US gymnast Alexandra Raisman added. "I think everyone knew she was going to win like a couple of years ago."

Biles, who was born in Ohio but lives in Texas, discovered gymnastics when she was 6 years old during a daycare field trip. She got noticed while imitating the gymnasts.

Biles switched to homeschooling in eighth grade so she could dedicate herself to the sport, spending dozens of hours a week in the gym.

Karolyi told Biles on Thursday that she was not sure about her just a few years ago, calling her "this bouncy thing."

But the breakthrough onto the world stage came in 2014 at the world championships in China, where Biles won four gold medals and a silver.

Even before making it to the Rio Games, she had amassed a record 10 gold medals at world championships and was named female Olympic athlete of the year for 2014-2015 by the US Olympic Committee.

She has not let the success get to her head, however.

"Just because you‘re at the top, it doesn‘t mean you can stop," Biles said on Thursday, noting that she does not feel invincible. "I think anything can happen. I just do what I do because I love it."

"She always works very hard, she doesn‘t take anything for granted and that‘s why she‘s able to stay on top," Raisman said.

The breakout Rio star, standing just 1,45 metres tall, is already being put in the same sentence as athletes at the pinnacle of the sports world, such as sprinter Usain Bolt and swimmer Michael Phelps.

Just do not ask her about it.

"I‘m not a celebrity," she said in Rio. "I‘m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I‘m the first Simone Biles."

"To me, I‘m just the same Simone," she added. "I just have two Olympic Gold medals now. I feel like I did my job tonight."



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