Simone Biles captures fifth World all-around title in Stuttgart

The American superstar gymnast led from start to finish to win unprecedented fifth all-around World title.

It was never in doubt, quite literally.

Just moments into the Thursday's women's all-around final at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles vaulted to the top of the leader board. Just over two hours later, she took home her fifth all-around crown at the event. No woman has won more, and only Kohei Uchimura of Japan has won six.

"I feel like it's not me," Biles admitted after the competition. "Sometimes, I wonder how I do it. I wish I could have like an out of body experience to witness it because sometimes I think I'm going crazy."

She never looked back after taking the early lead. And it was never close. As expected challengers, including teammate Sunisa Lee and France's Melanie de Jesus dos Santos, the reigning European champion, fell away, Biles put her foot on the gas.

As it has been four times before, by the time she reached the final rotation and the floor exercise, it was a coronation for the greatest female gymnast of her generation and perhaps of all time.

She ended with a total score of 58.999, followed by China's Tang Xijing at 56.899. Russia's Angelina Melnikova took bronze, earning 56.399. Biles' 2.100 margin is her highest at the World Championships. It's also her 16th World Championships gold medal and 22nd overall medal.

Four-for-four gives Biles five

A year ago in Doha, Biles' all-around final started with a shocking fall as she came up short on her 'Biles' vault.

"Last year was kind of tragic," the Houston, Texas-native said. "Definitely wasn't my best performance. But, you know, you live and you learn, and I feel like today going out there I didn't want to do that again."

And she didn't. Opting to go with an 'easier' Cheng vault (it was still the highest difficulty vault performed in the final), she posted a 15.233 to lead from the first rotation.

"I did ask Laurent [Landi] if I could do the double full vault, and he said, 'No.'" she said, before joking, "I was like, 'Are you having flashbacks?'"

The second rotation took her to her "weakest" event, the uneven bars where her 14.733 gave her more than a point lead over second place. Her routine was highlighted by a stuck double-twisting, double dismount and her trademark smile.

Beam was the other event that caused Biles grief in Doha when she slipped off on her front half. A year later Biles has removed that skill, opting for elements she feels more secure with. It's a change that's paid dividends as she's posted the highest score on beam in all three rounds of competition so far in Stuttgart. Thursday, she earned a 14.633.

"Cecile [Landi] has definitely helped a lot bringing back that confidence because after Rio, I kind of trashed myself and my beam work that I did and I wasn't the most confident," she said. "I feel like she really helped me bring that back to life, and I feel confident again for the first time."

Inspired by a tweet she saw last night, Biles dropped the mic in her final pose on the floor exercise, earning a 14.400. That, along with her marks on the vault and balance beam, where the best of the day. She finished with the third highest score on the uneven bars.

"I was like, 'Okay, well, if it's a good routine, I'll do it,'" said Biles. "It wasn't my best performance, but I landed on my feet and that's all I can be happy about."

That and her history making title, of course.

From #AllAround star to all-around bronze

Melnikova, who stars in the Olympic Channel's original series All Around, has had the best World Championships of her career. Two days after leading her team to a silver medal, she was once again solid on all four apparatus.

It's a triumph for the Russian who has three times won European gold and team medals for Russia at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2018 and 2019 World Championships, but never before found herself on the individual medal podium.

"Yes, this is really cool," the 19-year-old said. "I felt a very big fight between us. We had a big rivalry, if you noticed, the fourth and the fifth place - the gap was rather small. It was really difficult."

She began on the vault, delivering a solid 14.433 for her Yurchenko double twist. Then, in the second rotation, she fought through her uneven bars routine, nearly stalling on her final pirouette and clipping her foot on the low bar as she swung through to her dismount. Despite the errors, she posted a 13.900.

On the balance beam, she was nearly flawless posting a 14.000. She closed out her day with a 14.066, waving to the crowd as she walked off the podium.

"I approximately knew what I had to do to get on the podium," she said. "I am happy that I did it."

Last minute substitute Tang Xijing wins silver

Silver medallist Tang wasn't even supposed to be in the final. Errors on the balance beam in qualifying, which earned her just an 11.733, left her in 21st place and third best Chinese. Only two per country are allowed to participate in the all-around and event finals.

But China decided to pull teammate Liu Tingting from Thursday's final, two days after she had three falls in the women's team final. Errors that cost China a chance at a medal.

The switch paid off as Tang delivered three scores above 14.100 in the first three rotations. A low difficulty score, but clean execution, earned a 13.600 on the floor exercise to give her the bronze medal. It's the first medal for China in the all-around since Yao Jinnan also finished third in 2011.

Tang Xijing of China competes on balance beam during the all-around final at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Tang Xijing of China competes on balance beam during the all-around final at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)Tang Xijing of China competes on balance beam during the all-around final at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Following in Caslavska's footsteps

Next summer, Biles has the opportunity to become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion since Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska won at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 1968 Mexico City Games.

But the parallels between these two athletes extend beyond than their Olympic resumes. Caslavska was used her success in Mexico City to send a message to the world and to the Soviet Union, which had invaded Czechoslovakia in August of 1968. During the floor exercise medal ceremony, Caslavska turned her head away during the Soviet anthem.

Biles has similarly used her platform in the fall out from the abuse of former team doctor Larry Nassar of which Biles came forward as survivor in January 2018.

“For too long I’ve asked myself, ‘Was I too naive? was it my fault?’ I now know the answer to those questions,” she wrote on Twitter. “No. No, it was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.”

From that moment, Biles has picked her spots, speaking up when she feels she has to and in a way that will affect positive change. A year ago, Biles sent a tweet about short-lived USA Gymnastics CEO Mary Bono's criticism of Nike's support of football player Colin Kaepernick. Three days later, Bono resigned.

Biles told Olympic Olympic last year after claiming her fourth World all-around title, "I think in those specific moments you need to use your voice in a positive manner as long as it doesn’t draw negative attention. And you really stick to what you are saying and what you believe in."

Since then, she hasn't shied away, taking aim at USA Gymnastics in August in an emotional post-practice media session at the U.S. Championships.

'It’s hard coming here for an organisation, having had them fail us so many times," said Biles, "We had won gold, we have done everything that they asked us for, even when we didn’t want to and they couldn’t do one damn job."

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