The four-time Olympic gold medallist added her name to the record book again and again at the worlds
It’s easy to forget that what Simone Biles is doing is anything but easy. Her singular talent – and ability to deliver in the biggest moments on the biggest stages – has raised expectations higher than even her sky-high tumbling.
Yet, no matter how high either goes, Biles handles them both with ease.
“I think the thing that has helped me the most throughout my career is nothing changes at a meet except for the name of it,” she told Olympic Channel in Stuttgart.
Another thing that hasn’t changed? The results.
In Stuttgart, Biles won her fifth World all-around title, had two new elements added to the gymnastics rule book and broke the record for most medals at the World Championships by any athlete male or female. She has already owned the record for most world titles since 2015.
Biles’ run through Stuttgart ended with an historic five gold medals, setting the expectations for next year’s 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, where she will likely be the biggest name in sports, even higher.
“Going into the Olympics, I will be one of the biggest household names but I never really think about,” Biles admitted to Olympic Channel. “I just try to go in there and do what I came to do, do my job. But it will be kind of crazy that I'll be one of the biggest names out there.”
Biles closed out her 2019 campaign in style – winning five of the six available gold medals in Stuttgart. The last gymnast to accomplish that feat was Soviet Larisa Latynina (Boris Shalkin also won five gold medals at the 1958 World Championships in Moscow out of an available eight).
Those five mean Biles has 19 world titles to her credit and an overall haul of 25. Both are records. She’s has been so consistent at major internationals that she has only reached a final twice (bars in 2013 and 2019) and failed to medal.
“I feel like I work very well under pressure,” said Biles, “and I feel like [USA Gymnastics coach] Martha [Karolyi] has taught us a lot about how to keep calm in those situations.”
While Biles holds the record for most medals at the world championships, she trails Belarus' Vitaly Scherbo and Latynina in the combined world and Olympic medal count. Scherbo holds the record at 33, while Latynina has 32. Biles with her five medals from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio is third on the list with 29.
A repeat of her Stuttgart performance next summer will land her at the top of that list, as well.
But there is one record which Biles cannot pass – unless she continues her career through to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, something the 22-year-old has not yet ruled out with certainty – most Olympic gymnastics medals. Latynina collected 18 medals, including nine gold, at her three Olympics (1956, 1960 and 1964).
Biles, however, is content to let everyone else do the recordkeeping while she focuses on performing to her best.
“I feel like, for me, my accomplishments, I feel like it's just going out there and hitting my routines the way I'm capable of,” she said. “And then I'm pretty happy.”
Biles first historic feat in Stuttgart came during the qualification round when she became the first woman to compete a triple-twisting, double back on floor exercise and a double-twisting, double back off the balance beam.
Both elements now bear her name in the Code of Points used to evaluate routines.
For her, the four named elements she now has mean more than the five gold medals she showed off Sunday night in Stuttgart.
“I feel like putting my name on a skill is really rewarding just because it'll be in the code forever,” Biles said in a pre-event press conference in Stuttgart.
“It's something that I can hold on to just because I'm the one that did it first, so it's really exciting.”
She was less than excited, however, when the International Gymnastics Federation’s Women’s Technical Committee awarded her new beam dismount an H value, just one higher than the easier full-twisting version which has been performed since the early 80s.
She took to Twitter, calling the decision “bull----.” After performing it once, Biles never again showed the skill in Stuttgart.
“It's not worth a one tenth, like I'm sorry, it's just not,” Biles said after claiming the beam title Sunday with the highest score on the event at any of the three World Championships post-Rio 2016.
“I hit a really clean routine, so I just did a full in. It's just not worth one tenth. If it was three tenths, yeah, maybe but one tenth… I don't think so.”
Biles heads home Monday and said there will likely be a worlds party at her parents’ house, “whether I want one or not.”
She’ll also likely pick up a Cinnabon, or two, her guilty pleasure as she’s made clear on Twitter.
“For some reason, it's always cinnamon rolls,” Biles said with a laugh, “Every world championships since I went to my first one.”
From there, she’ll head off to vacation in Belize before getting back into the gym to prepare for what could be her final season. She’s not sure when she’ll make her 2020 debut, saying, “I have no idea yet. I have no idea. We'll take a break, obviously, after this and then we'll see what the meets look like lined up for next year.”
Likely she will make an appearance at an all-around World Cup in March or April or perhaps the continental championships in May. Then, the U.S. Classic (May 23), U.S. Championships (June 4-7) and U.S. Olympic Trials (June 25-28) will come in close succession before the Tokyo Olympics open on July 24.
She and coach Laurent Landi are unsure if there will be more history-making elements next year. Four years ago, she and then-coach Aimee Boorman opted to keep her entire program, sans one upgraded vault, the same from 2015 to 2016.
“Right now, we're kind of solidifying the routines,” she told Olympic Channel. “Obviously. we do want to bring back the Biles on vault, but probably next year, we will train it a lot more than we did this year, focusing on a pretty good Cheng and then we'll see.”
Said Landi of any new elements, “I can find plenty of stuff [to add]. But, you need to be realistic. Only the medals count at the end. We don’t need to show off everything we can do. We just need to be consistent, hit the routine and get the score that we get at the end.”
Regardless, one thing seems almost certain for Biles 2020: more history-making moments.