SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A decade later, Simone Biles is still on top.
The gymnastics star won her record eighth U.S. Championship on Sunday night, 10 years after she first ascended to the top of her sport as a teenage prodigy.
Biles, now a 26-year-old newlywed considered perhaps the greatest of all time, posted an all-around two-day total of 118.40, four points clear of runner-up Shilese Jones. Leanne Wong, a Florida junior, came in third place to boost her chances of being selected for a third consecutive world championship team. She became the oldest woman in history to win a National Title since USA Gymnastics started organizing the event in 1964. She has eight titles, which is more than Alfred Jochim who won seven from 1925 to 1933 when the Amateur Athletics Union organized the championships. The events included rope climbing in the men’s competition. “I focus on my performance.” Overall, I’d say I did 8 out of 8. “I guess this is a lucky year.”
The sport of gymnastics has evolved a lot over the past century. Biles has been at the extreme end of the Bell Curve for 10 years, using her unique talents to push the boundaries in many ways. At 26, most elite gymnasts — those who haven’t yet retired — just want to hang on to their current status. Never was. She says she’s doing it “for herself” this time, but her markedly different approach to her job is tangible proof that she’s not lying. She has kept her training under wraps and is more interested in sharing glimpses into her life away from the gym than letting the world know about her journey. “I like to keep (my goals) personal, just so that I know what I’m aiming for,” Biles said. It seems to be working so far, and I will keep it secret. I think it’s working so far, so I’m going to keep it secretive.”
There appears to be more balance in her life, leaning into the “it’s just gymnastics” mantra that helped fuel her rise.
Age hasn’t caught up to her yet, though she played it relatively safe — by her standards — on Sunday. She injured her ankle on Saturday and decided to skip the Yurchenko Double Pike Vault that she had performed almost flawlessly on the first night of competition on Friday. The 14.8 she received on beam was also impressive. It was also the 15.400 she achieved that earned her a standing-ovation at the end. She is an amazing performer on the bars, despite her height (5-foot-6ish). Her 15.000 score was tops in the meet and put 10 months of injuries that have slowed down her training behind. The crowd erupted when she nailed her dismount, her 15.000 score was tops in the meet on the event and put 10 months filled with injuries that have slowed her training firmly behind her.
Who joins Jones and Biles at worlds remains very much up in the air.
Reigning Olympic champion Sunisa Lee, who has spent most of the year battling a kidney issue her doctors are still trying to get a handle on, could have a chance as a specialist after putting together a solid balance beam routine.
Wong, one of several athletes trying to compete at the NCAA and elite levels at the same time, put together two stellar nights that included an elegant bars routine and a floor exercise that makes up for in precision what it lacks in power.
Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles, teammates of Biles’ at the 2020 Olympics, who have also spent the last two years splitting time between college and elite, weren’t quite as sharp. Chiles, Biles’ teammates at the 2020 Olympics who have also split time between college and elite levels for the last two years, weren’t quite as sharp. Carey finished in the top 10 on just one event — vault — where the Americans figure to be loaded.
AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games