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The other day I was talking to a good friend and former teammate of mine about Simone Biles. The 22-year-old gymnast came up because two weeks ago, as you no doubt have heard by now, while warming up at the U.S. Classic, Biles threw a new skill on floor, a triple-twisting double tuck.
Not just a skill she hadn’t competed before, but a skill no woman had competed before. Or possibly even trained before.
After impressing everyone with her warm-up, Biles went on to win Classics 2.1 points ahead of second-place Riley McCusker. Winning by 2.1 points is madness. I’m talking about finishing a race, making a cup of tea, and taking your first sip as the second-place finisher crosses the line. Or being three goals for the entire second half of a soccer game. That’s not to say that the gymnasts Biles competes against aren’t exceptional, it’s just that she is truly on another level.
In every sport, there are athletes who go beyond the previous standards, who rock the boat and redefine the sport. That is what Biles is to gymnastics. She isn’t just the best in the sport right now, she’s the best that there has ever been, and no one is even close to challenging her. She competes at the highest level of difficulty, invents new skills, and wins meets by entire points.
Sometimes when great athletes have off days or are equally matched, they can be beaten. Tom Brady is probably the most dominant quarterback today, but even he has lost in the Super Bowl. Tennis consistently has a rotating carousel of greats like Djokovich, Federer, and Williams, winning multiple Grand Slams over the years, but none have dominated back-to-back six times over.
Biles hasn’t lost a meet in six years. Her routines are so stacked with difficulty that another competitor could perform a routine perfectly, and Biles could fall multiple times and still win. That’s the level of difficulty she competes at, the level of the sport she has created for herself. In simple terms, Simone Biles is in a league of her own.
Since Biles can’t be beaten, I can’t really compare her to any other athlete. Michael Phelps is probably the closest; he is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals. The longevity of an athlete in the sport of gymnastics is notoriously short, so it’s hard to say how many Olympic medals Biles will rack up over her whole career, but at the moment I’d say she’s meeting Phelps’ level of domination in the sport.
Biles’ list of accomplishments is frankly exhausting. She’s accumulated more medals and titles than any woman who has come before her. She has a six-year winning streak with 19 straight all-around titles and a combined total of 25 Olympic and World Championship medals. Biles became a household name during the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where she was the most decorated female athlete with five total medals: team gold, individual gold on vault and floor, bronze on beam, and all-around gold. She won the all-around title with a 58.700, which became the highest score recorded under the 2017–2020 Code of Points. She was also the only gymnast to compete all four events in the final, because Biles has no weak events.
After her impressive showing at the Olympics, Biles took a year-long hiatus, but since returning to competition last year she has kicked right back into gear and continued her reign of domination in the sport.
At the 2018 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Biles added another world all-around title, bringing her total world all-around titles to four, the most of any female gymnast in history, and her total of world medals now stacks up to 20. She also debuted a new vault and had it subsequently named after her. There are few gymnasts who could even compete her old vault, the Cheng, and with her new one she’s already upped the game. It’s a round-off, ½-on to the table, stretched off with a 2/1 turn. It sounds complicated (because it is), so here’s a clip of it from the meet:
It’s pretty cool (understatement).
This wasn’t the first skill named after Biles. She first had a skill named after her on floor, a double layout half-out, which she competed at the 2016 Olympics but was named after her in 2013.
Later she even added on a stag jump after the landing, and at the 2019 U.S. Classic, she added a front layout out of it. Creating the skill wasn’t enough—she had to make it look easy too.
To have two skills named after you is a crazy impressive feat, but this is Simone Biles and she’ll be damned if she doesn’t keep raising the bar of the sport every time she walks out of her house. By the end of the 2019 World Championships in October in Stuttgart, Germany, you can fully expect her to have doubled the total of skills known as “the Biles.”
Which brings us to this week’s U.S. Championships in Kansas City, Missouri. On Friday, the first day of competition for senior women at the event, she debuted the triple-double in her floor routine, but shorted it a bit and stumbled on the landing.
Not to be slowed down for long, later in the night, she nailed a double-double beam dismount, a skill that no gymnast has ever before successfully landed.
Biles will get another crack at the triple-double on Sunday, as she competes for a record-tying sixth national title. Then, come FIG World Championships in October, she’ll no doubt bust it out again, and then, if she lands it, it will become known as the Biles II. The double-double beam dismount, should she land it at Worlds, would also earn the moniker of the Biles.
“I feel like you should never settle just because you are winning or you are at the top,” Biles said in an interview with the New York Times earlier this week. “You should always push yourself.”
It’s that mentality that has elevated Biles to the level she’s at today, and the same one that will continue to change and accelerate the sport of gymnastics until her retirement and beyond.