KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The choice was entirely hers. Only there really wasn’t of one for Simone Biles to make.
Sure, she could have taken her triple-twisting double-flip (aka “the triple-double”) out of her floor exercise routine during the final night of the U.S. women’s gymnastics championships on Sunday. She surely didn’t need it to assure herself of another national title.
Still, even as her coach Laurent Landi left the option up to her after the Olympic champion’s bid to become the first woman to complete the triple-double in competition came up a bit short on Friday, he knew the answer.
So she threw it at the end of her first tumbling pass, fueled by adrenaline, ambition and otherworldly skill. When the dizzying combination ended with her feet firmly on the floor — if barely in bounds — the jolt through the packed arena was palpable. The smile on her face unmistakable. And the competition — just like it has been for six years and counting whenever Biles is involved — was over.
The triple-double served as the exclamation point on her sixth national championship. Her two-day total of 118.500 was nearly five points clear of 16-year-old Sunisa Lee in second and more almost seven points ahead of third-place finisher Grace McCallum.
It’s why she sneaked a peek at her phone while rotating from floor to balance beam, typically a no-no during a meet. Well, at least for anyone not named Simone Biles.
“I wanted to see how it looked,” she said.
Here’s a word: historic.
“It’s like she hit a hole in one and we were all there,” USA Gymnastics high performance director Tom Forster said. “It’s a big deal and we all know it. No one in the world has done it before in the women and actually, she does it better than most of the men who have done it. She should be super excited about that.”
She was. When Biles finished off a twohour showcase that highlighted how wide the gulf between herself and the rest of the world has become by drilling her dismount on uneven bars: she danced.
“I was a lot happier today,” Biles said.
“I feel I haven’t been as confident on bars this year as I was last year. To finally do a good routine like I can do it, I was really happy. I was very happy and the last event, so I was like, ‘Thank God we’re done.’”
For now anyway. Biles is two months away from a trip to the world championships — where her 20 medals are tied for the most by a female gymnast — and a year away from a return to the Olympics. She was a sensation in 2016, cementing her status as one of the best ever with two weeks of gymnastics that came as close to perfection as the sport allows.
A year to go before a return trip to the games, Biles is even better. And really, it’s not close.
“She’s a freaking beast,” said MyKayla Skinner, an alternate on the 2016 Olympic team who clinched a spot on the national team by finishing eighth. “Like, I don’t even understand. I always ask her, ‘Do you realize how good you are?’ And she’s like ‘Yeah, but I don’t know.’ It just comes so naturally, it’s amazing.”
In a sport that sometimes forces athletes to choose between skill and execution, Biles doesn’t have to. She not only puts together the most difficult routines in the world, she does them better than anyone else. Biles won floor, balance beam and vault and finished third on bars even with her “meh” set on Friday.
“She does stuff that I never thought people could do,” Lee said.