As she wrapped up her final performance in a five-night run that cemented her position as the most decorated performer to grace the world gymnastics championships, Simone Biles took a moment not to reflect, but to catch her breath.
It was, after all, a week with no days off — two performances with the gold medal-winning USA Gymnastics team, the individual all-around and two days of four event finals — that produced five gold medals for Biles, the four-time Olympic gold medalist and odds-on favorite to challenge for more hardware at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
By adding two event championships Sunday at the International Gymnastics Federation championships in Stuttgart, Germany, Biles, 22, now has 25 world medals, breaking the record she shared, briefly, with Vitaly Scherbo of the Soviet Union and Belarus. She has 19 gold medals, also a record, with three silvers and three bronze medals.
First came balance beam, the one event at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics at which Biles competed but was unable to win a gold medal. Then came floor, where she once again performed the triple-twisting double tuck somersault that now bears her name in the FIG scoring catalogue.
She won both with room to spare.
And now, at last, she gets a day off.
“This is probably my best worlds performance that I’ve ever put out,” she said.
Sunday for Biles commenced on beam, where she finished third in the Olympics and at last year’s world championships. Her routine this year has drawn added attention because it included a double-twisting double somersault dismount that was downgraded in scoring value by the FIG technical committee because it was deemed unsafe for the average competitor, which Biles, needless to say, is not.
Biles reworked her beam routine after a world team selection camp last month, and she sailed through her performance with no noticeable balance checks and a slight hop back and to the left upon her dismount. She did not do the more difficult double-double dismount, which she performed during the team competition to facilitate its entry into the FIG code of points bearing her name.
As her score was announced — 15.066, well clear of defending champion Liu Tingting of China at 14.433 and Li Shijia of China at 14.3 — Biles leaped to her feet, pumped her right arm in celebration and exchanged high-fives with her coach Laurent Landi.
“I’ve been working on bringing my confidence back up to where it used to be on beam, and to go out there and nail that routine as I do in practice felt really good,” Biles said. “I’m thrilled with that performance. It’s probably the highlight.”
Biles indicated that in the wake of the FIG scoring the decision, the double-double dismount could be a thing of the past because of the diminished risk/reward ratio.
“It’s not worth the one-tenth. I’m sorry. It’s just not,” she said. “If it’s three-tenths, maybe, but one tenth, I don’t think so.”
Kara Eaker of Grain Valley, Mo., a member of the gold medal-winning U.S. squad who was elevated to the beam finals when a competitor withdrew, finished fourth at 14.0.
Biles wrapped up on floor with her percussive performance based around the opening riff from the Broadway hit “Hey Big Spender.” She landed the landmark triple-double combination in bounds, which she was unable to do during the all-around final, but had an out of bounds step on the second tumbling pass that also bears her name in the code of points.
As she wrapped up her performance on floor, she passed before walking off the podium and said later that it was not a moment to reflect but a second to recover.
“I just couldn’t breathe, honestly,” she said. “I didn’t want to move. I was so tired. I said I’m going to stay her because if I come out I’m literally going to be (panting) like a dog.”
This time, Biles was a full point clear of the field, scoring 15.133 points to 14.133 for Sunisa Lee of St. Paul, Minn. Angelina Melnikova of Russia was third at 14.066.
Biles said she will take some time off before she resumes training with Landi and coach Cecile Canqueteau-Landi, whom Biles credited with helping her restore her mojo on balance beam, at the Biles family’s World Gymnastics Centre in Montgomery County as she prepares for the run-up to Tokyo.
She told reporters in Stuttgart that she isn’t yet able to contemplate her place as the most-decorated worlds gymnast — “Ask me next week, and maybe I’ll tell you,” she said — but others will express the facts on her behalf.
As her former coach, Aimee Boorman, said on Twitter, repeating a conversation from the 2013 world championships: “When Simone Biles won her first World’s AA title, my co-coach was worried that she had peaked too early for Rio.