Soaring higher than any other gymnast and performing skills more difficult than her peers is no problem for Simone Biles.
Dancing, however, has proven terrifying.
Seven months after winning five medals – including four golds – at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the most decorated U.S. gymnast in history has taken on her next challenge – dancing – and will show off her new skills on Monday night’s premiere of season 24 of “Dancing with the Stars.”
The 20-year-old will compete with professional dancer Sasha Farber, who is in his fourth full season on the show, against the likes of two-time Olympic medalist figure skater Nancy Kerrigan, “Glee” actress Heather Morris and Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross.
Biles spoke to TeamUSA.org about why she was eager to team up with Farber, learning scary lifts and the advice gymnastics teammate Laurie Hernandez gave her.
Why were you interested in being on “Dancing with the Stars”?
I’ve seen other gymnasts go on it, and it seems like a fun thing to do. Obviously you have to get out of your comfort zone, but that’s also what I like about it. You do stuff you’re not used to doing so you get comfortable with it, and it’s a fun experience.
Before you were even on the show, you said you wanted to be partnered with Sasha. Why him?
It seemed like he had a very cool, fun personality, very positive energy and I like the way he works with people. And no gymnast has ever had him, so I thought it would be really fun.
Had you met before being paired up for the show?
Actually, a week and a half before the cast announcement on “Good Morning America,” I went to the Sugar Land stop (of the “Dancing with the Stars: Live!” tour), which is near Houston, to see Laurie, and that’s the one stop on the tour he went to see his fiancé Emma (Slater). We were actually sitting next to each other and we had no idea that we’d be partners.
Now that you’ve been working together for a couple weeks, were your right about Sasha?
I was completely right. Everything is great and I’ve heard he’s one of the nicest, and he really is. He’s really good to work with.
Sasha is the shortest male dancers on the show. Does the height similarity work out well?
I think so. He’s still about a foot taller than me – he’s 5-6, I’m 4-8. But in heels, I’m a little bit taller.
How much are you rehearsing each week?
Right now, we’re just rehearsing four hours a day, six days a week.
Have you had to do any other type of training for the show outside of the dance studio?
No, I practically have still been in shape since the Olympics so it’s not too, too bad. But it is a lot of cardio to dance around all day.
What has surprised you the most about dancing so far?
How hard it is and that it’s kind of scary. I feel like a baby giraffe whenever I put my heels on, but it’s fun. Some of the lifts are scary.
You’re not used to trying scary moves by now?
That’s what Sasha said, but this is completely different. We rely on ourselves in gymnastics, but in dancing I have to rely on him to catch me and to lift me, and that’s a little scary.
What is it like learning to work with a partner?
He’s the first boy I’ve ever danced with, so that was very different. But other than that, it’s been amazing to work with him. He’s very positive and very patient, so I think we work well together.
Your first dance is a tango. What scores would you be happy with?
Oh goodness. I don’t know. I haven’t been asked that question yet. I would say 6s and above, hopefully.
Do you feel pressure to be one of the best dancers on the show?
I feel a little bit of pressure just because people are used to seeing me at my peak, but this is definitely a new experience and you have to get used to it. You’re doing something you’ve never done before and you only have a week to learn each of the dances they give you. It should be fun though. I feel pressure, but not too much.
You’re the fifth gymnast to compete on the show. What advice have you received from your teammates?
Laurie and them just said really take care of your feet because they’ll hurt from being in heels all the time. So just take care of them and tell your partner when they’re hurting. And also to soak up the experience because every time you go out to do your dance each week, you only get one shot to do it, so it’s important to really have fun in the moment.
What do you hope to get out of being on the show?
I think what everyone hopes to get out of it is learning how to dance and becoming a better dance, but each week you get a little bit better and learn more about yourself. It’s not just about the dancing. You have to do a little acting in the scenes, playing the role of the dances we’re given with the music. So it’ll definitely be different and you’ll have to open up faster than you want because you’re just thrown in with a partner and expected to dance together and have chemistry.