Will Simone Biles strike gold on 'Dancing with the Stars'?
Simone Biles' first dancing experience didn't go so well.
She was 13, full of bouncing-off-the-walls energy, and taking ballet lessons in hopes of improving her gymnastics skill set. However, convinced her teacher didn't like her, unable to follow instructions and struggling with some of the skills, Biles stepped away from the barre and focused all her energy on her chosen sport.
Clearly, that plan worked out just fine for the five-time Olympic medalist and reigning all-around champion, who turned 20 on Tuesday.
But, now after a six-year absence, Biles has returned to the dance floor. And this time, instead of a ballet class, she's a contestant on the 24th season of "Dancing with the Stars."
Partnered with DWTS alum and professional dancer Sasha Farber, the dynamic duo will make their debut on Monday (8 p.m. ET on ABC). Despite her previously contentious relationship with dance, Biles has always held aspirations to be on the competition-based show and jumped at the chance to join the new cast.
"I remember thinking after the Olympics, 'If I ever got a call [from the show], I would want to do it," Biles said. "But the first time they called -- unfortunately I had to decline because I was on the post-Olympic [Kellogg's] tour. But Laurie [Hernandez] ended up doing it. She was absolutely phenomenal, and now it's my turn to do it!"
Hernandez, Biles' U.S. gymnastics teammate, ultimately won last season with her partner Val Chmerkovskiy. After taking home the show's coveted Mirrorball Trophy, Hernandez adorably passed on her lucky dancing shoes to Biles during the new cast announcement on ABC's "Good Morning America" earlier this month.
Aside from Hernandez, Biles also follows fellow gymnasts Shawn Johnson, Aly Raisman and Nastia Liukin onto the show. Johnson won Season 8, and Raisman (Season 16) and Liukin (Season 20) both finished fourth on their respective casts. Biles is very much aware of the success her peers have had, and she hopes to bring her sport yet another win. But she doesn't want to put too much emotional or physical pressure on herself.
"Laurie and Nastia have both told me to take care of my feet because dancing in heels is super different," she said. "There are so many blisters. They told me to tell my partner when my feet are hurting. But mainly they told me to soak up the experience and have fun. "
While Biles is no stranger to grueling physical demands, she insists the foot pain she's endured during rehearsals is no joke. Dancing in three-inch heels has taken a major toll. Calling her feet "gross," she compares them to how her hands often look during gymnastics training. "My hands are now finally getting better, but my feet are getting so much worse," she said with a laugh.
Having watched Hernandez perform live twice during the "Dancing with the Stars" national tour, Biles had met several of the dancers from the show but had never been acquainted with Farber. She confessed she was "super excited" to meet him prior to the start of their rehearsals, and they have since hit it off, as documented on their respective social media accounts.
Nicknaming themselves #TeamGoldenGiggles, the pair began training together last month in Biles' native Houston before heading to Los Angeles, where the production is filmed. They will remain in the City of Angels throughout their time on the show.
Though considered by many as the frontrunner on the show, Biles is unsure of how she'll fare. She hasn't had a chance to evaluate her competition but knows it will be tough with talent like Olympic figure skating silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan, former "Glee" star and Beyoncé backup dancer Heather Morris and "Fifth Harmony" member Normani Kordei in the cast.
Because Biles has won virtually every competition she's participated in since 2013, the expectations are always high for the 4-foot-9 gymnast. However, dance is different than gymnastics, and she is just focused on improving with each passing week.
"This whole process has shown me how uncoordinated I am," she said. "When you put three-inch heels on, it's a totally different world."
Still, one has to think, no matter what the outcome, this go-around on the dance floor has to be better than the first time.