This Astonishing Simone Biles Photo Shows Why She Is the Greatest

A stunning photograph of U.S. gymnast Simone Biles performing a perfect rotation has taken the world of social media and beyond by storm.

The already iconic image was captured by Irish photographer Bryan Keane. He is in Tokyo covering the Olympics for Inpho Photography, a sports photo agency in Ireland.

Assigned to the Far East to predominantly chronicle the Games from an Irish perspective, Keane revealed to Newsweek there was an element of chance to him photographing Biles at her brilliant best.

"I was in the press room when I noticed the American gymnasts were up on their rotation," he said. "She's the biggest star in the sport and part of me was curious to see what she does in the flesh. I was in a very privileged position to do that as someone who is working but also a spectator."

While as many as 30 photographers were following Biles and the rest of Team USA during that day's floor exercise, Keane decided to focus his efforts on getting a memorable picture from their next rotation, on the vault.

"There was a shot there I had done with one of the Irish athletes that worked because of the black background that was behind them when they launched into the air.

"The contrast it creates when you put an athlete into that space just takes away everything else. Whereas if they are down a bit lower things make the photo a bit more cluttered. You obsess over things like that as a photographer."

While the rest of the photographers were over on the floor exercise, the Irish photographer positioned himself low down to maximize the impact of any pictures he got.

"There was no pressure on me to get a shot. It meant I could take bigger risks to try and get something great," he said.

"I was down there shooting, kind of looking up at them. The gymnasts get really good elevation coming off the vault so they were putting themselves exactly in the space where I wanted them.

"I couldn't actually see when they were coming into shot, they just kind of popped into frame. So I set up the camera on a fixed manual focus point and had it there and was just waiting and as soon as they came into shot I'd shoot."

The results were good—but Keane "wanted something more."

The solution was to combine multiple exposures with a higher shutter speed to create the effect captured in the picture of Biles.

After taking pictures with three-frame and five-frame multiple exposures, Keane decided to push the envelope a little further, coming up with his most memorable photograph in the process.

"They were coming towards the end of the vault so I put it up to seven frames and brought my shutter speed up. The first shot on seven was Simone. I didn't know it was going to be her. That just happened to be her time to run and I nailed it in one shot."

"I looked at it and thought it looked really nice and then went again and got another great shot of her. I went back to the press room and sent the pictures to one of the guys in the office and they were like 'woah that shot is something special.'"

Simone Biles completed a perfect rotation
US gymnast Simone Biles completes a perfection rotation. Inpho Photography/Bryan Keane

Though Keane was happy with his work, he didn't necessarily realize how big an impact his photo would go on to have. After sharing it on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, he continued on with his work photographing the Olympics.

"I had been out covering the Rugby sevens and over at the track when at about 4:30 pm someone said 'you should check your phone. There's a bit of traction on that photograph you took.'" he recalled.

Even then, as the picture exploded on social media, the scale of the reaction only dawned on Keane when he spoke to a friend in Australia who told him she had seen it on the news.

"It just took off," he said. "The Olympic channel's Twitter account got hold of it and then Simone herself retweeted was all a bit bizarre. I've never received so much attention for a picture before."

I shot this today.

— Bryan Keane OLY (@tribryan) July 25, 2021

While Keane has taken many pictures he is proud of during his career to date, he firmly believes this might be his best yet—and possibly the best he will ever take.

"To get a picture of such an iconic athlete at an Olympic Games...I don't think I can surpass that. I don't think I will surpass that. There's my best work. That's it," he said.

"I'd like to think that I'm good enough to take more amazing photographs and I will take more great photographs. As a photographer you always want to be better than before and keep your standard of work really high. You are never satisfied."

What makes the photograph all the more incredible is that this is Keane's first time covering the Olympics. "To come to my first Olympic Games and get a picture like that on day two is just the stuff of dreams," the Irishman admitted.

He also had his own perspective on what makes the photo such a fantastic image.

"It captures an incredible athlete doing what she does so brilliantly and there's just this perfect rotation," Keane explained.

"The photograph just compliments what she can achieve, when you break it down. When you see something like that in the air it's a split-second that she's turning.

"Most of us can't see that and are blown away by what she does. When you see it broken down and how her rotation is just so perfect as well, you can see that every movement is just beautiful."

"Everybody wants to have an iconic image, maybe, for me, that will be my iconic image."