Antwerp, Belgium — Even a slight stumble near the end couldn’t stop Simone Biles. Less than three months after his return to competition, the American superstar returns once again to the top of world gymnastics.
Biles overcame a late problem in her floor routine after an otherwise dominant performance to win the individual all-around title at the world championships for the sixth time on Friday. It made her the most decorated gymnast in history, two years after she put her career on hold to focus on her mental health after the Tokyo Olympics.
Even for someone who has now stood on the podium at the World Championships 21 times, it was enough to bring a few tears during the medal ceremony in Antwerp – the Belgian city where Biles began his collection of titles he ten years ago at the age of 16.
“Actually, you’ll never believe me, but I’ve had something in my eye for about four hours today that I couldn’t get out,” Biles said. “So every time I looked at the podium, if I look up, it really hits me.”
Biles then admitted she was emotional.
“Because 10 years ago, I won my first world championships. Now we are back here. So it was emotional,” she said. “It means everything to me, the fight, everything I put into getting back to this place, feeling comfortable and confident enough to compete.”
Biles scored 58.399 points on beam, floor, vault and uneven bars to beat Rebeca Andrade, Brazil’s defending champion, by 1.633 points. Biles’ American teammate, Shilese Jones, won the bronze medal with 56.332 points.
It was Biles’ 27th world championship medal – and 21st gold. It came two days after the four-time Olympic gold medalist led the Americans to a record seventh straight victory in the team event.
And it came after a two-year break from participating in the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics, which was plagued by a battle with a mental block known as “the twisties.” She was expected to repeat as individual all-around champion in Tokyo, but withdrew from competition to focus on her mental well-being.
She said the therapy sessions and breathing and visualization exercises she has done regularly since have helped her recovery.
“I was so much more nervous for the team finals because that’s when everything was happening (in Tokyo), so I was a little traumatized by that. So today I felt a little more relaxed,” she said. “So I’m glad it’s over.”
Biles now has 34 medals at the world championships and Olympics, making her the most decorated gymnast of all time – male or female – in the sport’s two flagship events, ahead of retired Vitaly Scherbo.
His six world all-around titles also tie the all-time record,
“Every day I try to think about it, especially in therapy, when we talk about it,” Biles said of her record-breaking accomplishments. “And I think that’s when all the emotions come up. And I really think about what I’ve done and what we’ve done to the sport and moving that forward. So I think it’s really exciting. But overall, I don’t think it will hit me until I retire and look back and see how much I’ve done.
Biles’ only mishap came right at the end, as she was about to finish her floor routine. After a near-perfect performance, she tripped near the end of her routine as she was about to begin a jumping sequence. But she recovered in style, and it didn’t cost her enough points to steal the gold.
“I know my parents had a heart attack,” Biles told his coach.
With the Olympics less than a year away in Paris, Biles is back to his best. And despite stiff competition from Andrade and Jones, she remains a cut above the rest – a full decade into her reign.
“She is like wine, she gets better with age,” said her trainer Cécile Landi.
After announcing her return, she impressed at the US Classic in early August then added her eighth national title a few weeks later. She is participating this week in her first world championships since 2019.
Biles received the loudest round of applause during the athlete’s presentation, with Andrade’s name also being met with loud cheers.
Biles, Jones and Andrade competed in the same rotation, kicking off their competition on vault. Jones got off to a good start, landing a Yurchenko double twist with a short jump that earned her 14.233 points.
In her blue leotard, Biles then opted for a Cheng vault – not the more difficult Yurchenko Double Pike that she pioneered during team qualifying – and was near-perfect in her execution, scoring 15.100 points. Andrade, the defending champion, also attempted a Cheng but her execution was not as good as Biles’ and she had to settle for 14.700.
Even on her weakest apparatus, the uneven bars, Biles still managed a 14.333 which put her in the lead ahead of Andrade, who after a long wait performed a superb routine on the bars and closed the gap with her American rival to only 0.233 points before moving. to the beam.
Biles looked a little shaky as she got on the beam, but the rest of her routine was excellent. Jones put in a superb display to move up to second overall and was warmly hugged by Biles after her effort.
Andrade bounced out of bounds seconds before completing his floor routine, a fluffy final step that spoiled an otherwise brilliant show. The error cost him three tenths of a point, but not his silver medal.
Biles and Jones were proud of the fact that three athletes of color stood on the podium.
“We had our black girls’ podium,” Biles said. “So I thought it was incredible. Black girl magic. So, I hope this teaches all young girls that you can do anything.
“I feel like sometimes young girls are like, oh, I can’t do it because of my skin tone, but just believe in yourself and anything is possible,” Jones said.
Biles’ competition continues this weekend with the women’s vault and uneven bars finals on Saturday and the balance beam and floor exercise finals on Sunday.
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