Short gymnasts live large in Athletes’ Village

Short gymnasts live large in Athletes' Village

Angelina Melnikova

Standing under 5 feet tall can make a person stand out in everyday life Now imagine if she’s in a community full of basketball stars, volleyball players and other BFG-like athletes.

“I just feel like I’m going to get stepped on or something,” U.S. gymnast Simone Biles told USA Today after a few days in the Athletes Village, a dedicated Olympian-only campus at the Rio Olympics.

4-foot-8 Simone Biles found herself going viral before she even stepped onto a competition floor when she posted a photo of herself with a volleyball player who is a full two feet taller than her.
While Biles likely won’t get outperformed by any other gymnasts in the all-around final, she did get one-upped by Russia’s Angelina Melnikova. While 16-year-old Melnikova is slightly taller than Biles at 4-foot-11, she found an athlete with over 2 feet on her: 7-foot volleyball player Artem Volvich, also Russian. Melnikova’s caption of the photo roughly translates to, “I should have eaten kasha!” Kasha is a type of porridge that’s commonplace in Russia and helps kids grow strong. It’s the equivilent of Biles saying, “I should have drank my milk.”
Melnikova, who will compete with the Russian women against Biles and the U.S. team on Tuesday, did find a place to feel larger than life: a shop full of teddy bears.

The alternates on the U.S. women’s team may not get the chance to compete or be allowed to stay in the Athletes Village, but that didn’t stop them from getting in on the fun. They attended a practice game of the U.S. men’s basketball team and, of course, took hilarious photos. Ragan Smith (right) is 4-foot-6 and her coach Kim Zmeskal-Burdette (left), a 1992 Olympic gymnast, is 4-foot-7. They posed with 6-foot-9 Kevin Durant.

Ragan and her fellow alternate, Ashton Locklear, also posed with DeAndre Jordan and Jimmy Butler.

The Games have just begun, so there will surely be more height-based hilarity to come. Gymnastics and basketball fans of all heights can look forward to photos like this one of Carmelo Anthony and the Fierce Five from the London 2012 Olympics. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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