Simone Biles soars at U.S. Classic
Simone Biles lived up the billing. Once again.
Fans inside Louisville's KFC Yum! Center might have been forgiven if they thought they had seen a superhero as the gymnasts were introduced on Saturday night at the GK U.S. Classic.
That's when the four-time Olympic champion - already a dead ringer for superwoman when she catapults herself into the air in any gymnastics venue - marched out having donned a cape. Well, kind of.
Biles and her World Champions Centre teammates couldn't fit their windbreakers over their uneven bar grips. So coach Cecile Landi came up with an innovative solution: tie them like capes.
"It kinda did [make me feel like a superhero]," Biles said, adding with a laugh, "I think the kids enjoyed it more than we did."
With the cape off, it was off to the races as Biles flew past the competition to win her second-straight U.S. Classic title. She totaled 60.000 ahead of 2018 World championships teammates Riley McCusker (57.900) and Grace McCallum (57.700).
Just another day for Biles
No one, perhaps, summed up Biles' performance more succinctly than Laurent Landi, husband to Cecile who also coaches Biles, saying her four-for-four performance tonight is "all she needs for the next year."
The 14-time World gold medallist got things started on the uneven bars where she soared through the rafters on her double-double dismount. She scored a 14.450. Her reorganised balance beam routine earned a 14.900.
On the floor exercise in the third rotation, she debuted both new music and new tumbling (adding a front layout out of her signature double layout with a half turn, "the Biles") to post a 15.000.
"First, I'm surprised because she doesn't need to so you know she wants to," said national team high performance coordinator Tom Forster of Biles upgraded elements. "You can't buy that. She doesn't want to just hold on, she wants to smash records and do more."
"It's a neat part of history for our sport," Forster added.
She entered the final rotation with a 1.000 lead over McCusker and cruised to the title, executing a Cheng vault (round off onto the board, half turn onto the table, to front layout with a one-and-a-half twist) to score 15.650.
"It's super exciting especially having another title," Biles said. "But there's always more work to do."
The more things change...
Though the name at the top of the scoreboard has not change, not much else is the same in Biles’ post-Rio life.
Now a bona fide superstar – not just in the sport – the 22-year-old will likely be the face of Team USA when competition gets underway in just over a year. She also has a boyfriend (standout University of Michigan gymnast and former U.S. national team member Stacey Ervin), is balancing life training as a professional athlete with commitments to her sponsors and is a new homeowner.
The toughest part of her new, more adult life?
“The cleaning!” Biles said, responding to the Olympic Channel Friday following training in Louisville.
“You wipe down a counter, you walk back about 5 minutes later, it’s somehow dirty again. You make food, it’s dirty. And that blows my mind,” she added.
Though change seems to be everywhere in Biles’ life, one thing remains the same: a constant drive that pushes her – and gymnastics – higher.
“If you’re not looking forward to something, you don’t push yourself. I think it’s important so you’re not just at a static (point),” she said.
Backing Biles up
While Biles is the sport's most recognisable star, her American teammates that helped her win the 2018 World team gold medal are no slouches. In fact, any combination of the top six finishers in the all-around is almost certainly a guaranteed fifth-straight gold medal for the U.S. team when the World Championships begin in October.
"I've always said to my girls, the hardest part is getting out of our country," said Maggie Haney, who coaches silver medalist McCusker and helped guide Laurie Hernandez to gold and silver medals in Rio. "International competitions are some times not as high quality as our U.S. national competitions."
McCusker looked stronger than ever both in her gymnastics and physically, something Haney said had been a focus since she first began working with the 18-year-old.
"I think it was a great meet. It honestly didn't even feel like a meet. I was really prepared for it," said McCusker.
She'll lead the U.S. women next week at the Pan Am Games along with 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd, who took the bars competition in Louisville, Kara Eaker, Aleah Finnegan and Leanne Wong.