By Nancy Armour |
You cannot do any better than Simone Biles.
Not now, not ever.
Maybe not in any sport.
Biles etched her name more deeply into the record books Sunday, winning the titles on balance beam and floor exercise to make her the most-decorated gymnast, male or female, at the world championships. Her 25 medals are two more than Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus – who had two more events to collect his, mind you.
Of Biles’ 25 medals, a whopping 19 are gold, including every one she won this year: team, all-around, vault, beam and floor. It’s the first time she’s won five golds at worlds, and is sure to spark conversation of whether she can do the same thing at next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
“Oh God, I can’t pick one,” Biles said when asked what will stick with her most. “I think this is probably my best worlds performance I’ve ever put out, so I would say overall. All of them.”
Biles had tied Scherbo on Saturday after winning the vault title. That she would pass him Sunday was a given, considering she’s the reigning world and Olympic champion on floor and has won a medal on beam at every worlds she’s done.
That she got the record on beam was extra sweet, because it gave her redemption, too.
Biles had won the beam title at the 2014 and 2015 worlds, and was the favorite for the gold in Rio. But her foot slipped on the landing of a front tuck, and she had to grab the beam to keep from falling off. She still won a bronze medal, but her confidence was shaken.
Another wobbly performance last year, which also earned her a bronze, only deepened her insecurities.
But Cecile Landi, who coaches Biles with husband Laurent and is responsible for beam, reworked her routine and helped her regain her faith in herself. She has been as consistent as a metronome at this meet — no small thing, given how many falls there were, across every phase of the competition.
On Sunday, she worked the 4-inch-wide beam with swagger, with nary a wobble or bobble on any skill.
When her score — a 15.066 — popped up, a huge grin spread across Biles’ face and she jumped out of her seat. She threw a roundhouse punch in the air, then exchanged a high-five and hug with Laurent Landi.
“Cecile has really been working on bringing my confidence back up to where it used to be on beam, so to go out there and nail the routine just like I do in practice, it felt really good,” Biles said. “I’m thrilled with that performance.”
She led off her floor exercise with the best triple-twisting, double somersault that she’s done yet, getting huge height and sticking it as if she had glue on her feet. She beamed, and the crowd roared in appreciation.
She did go out of bounds on the leap that punctuates another pass, but it was a minor deduction.
When Biles finished, she didn’t drop the mic as she did at the end of the all-around competition. Instead, she took a moment and then blew kisses while Laurent Landi clapped his hands over his head.
“She’s incredible,” Landi said. “You don’t want to look at (the medals), just. We were here to do the job. The goal is to hit four out of four, every day, day after day. This is what she has shown everybody and to herself, her consistency not only in training but when it counts.
“At the end of the day, if she can do this for eight more months, she’ll be very, very successful.”
Biles was already in gymnastics’ G.O.A.T. conversation before the Rio Olympics, and she left there with five medals, four of them gold. When she returned, having taken a year off after the Games, she worried that she had already reached her peak, and wouldn’t be able to duplicate what she did in Rio.
She has. And then some.
It’s clear Biles has no peer in gymnastics, having won every all-around competition she’s been in since the 2013 U.S. championships. But she’s now so dominant, the fairer comparisons are with the likes of LeBron James, Serena Williams or Tom Brady.
Or, in Olympic terms, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt.
Their sports are different, yes. But their singular achievements, as well as the way they’ve changed their games, are very much the same.
Biles leaves these world championships with two more skills named after her: the triple-double on floor and her double-twisting double somersault dismount off balance beam. The double-double is so difficult the International Gymnastics Federation actually gave it a lesser value than it deserves in order to deter other, less-capable gymnasts from trying it.
Biles now has four skills named after her, two on floor and one each on beam and vault. She’s added all but one in the last year.
“When you’ve had so much success in the sport, what brings you back in the gym is something original. Some different stuff,” Laurent Landi said. “It’s not just winning, because it’s hard to motivate yourself. It’s much better to come with a purpose, putting your name in the Code of Points, or trying a different skill that nobody else did before.
“When they get older and when they have achieved as much as she did,” Landi added, “this is a great way to motivate her to come back in the gym and to train.”
It is one thing to achieve greatness, but it is quite another to sustain it over a long period of time. And that is what this medals record really means.
Maybe there will be another gymnast who will be able to match Biles’ skills that defy imagination as much as gravity. Maybe there will be another athlete with her athleticism or power. Maybe someone will have her longevity.
But all of it? Together?
“We never expected somebody would dominate like this,” national team coordinator Tom Forster said. “Could it happen again? She’s proven it could. Will it? I don’t know.”
Simone Biles isn’t just the best gymnast. She’s one of the best athletes, period.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.