Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles hasn’t lost a gymnastics all-around competition since 2013, so the question really wasn’t whether she would walk away with the all-around gold Saturday night in the GK U.S. Classic in the KFC Yum! Center.
The only questions were whether she would maintain the gap she holds over U.S. competitors, and what new she might try while doing it.
Here was a fun new wrinkle – she was introduced wearing a cape before her first event, the uneven bars. Her team jacket wouldn’t fit over the grips she wore on her hands to compete on the bars, so her coach told her to wear the jacket like a cape.
She laughed when asked about it afterward. “I think the kids enjoyed it more than we did.”
It was fitting. There is a super hero quality to Biles’ performances. On Saturday, she flew away with a two-point victory in claiming the all-around gold at the GK U.S. Classic for a second straight year. It was her 19th straight all-around title.
She made it look easy – most of the time. She did fly out of bounds on her floor exercise, but when you are attempting to execute things that no one in the sport has ever done, even that doesn’t slow you down. She introduced new music for her floor exercise, and added a high-speed punch layout front to her signature tumbling run, “The Biles,” which includes a double layout with a half turn.
When she landed with both feet out of bounds, she gave the crowd a smile before jumping back into her routine.
“I definitely wanted to stay in bounds for one routine,” she said. “But it’s more to work on. I overpowered it a little bit, but I’m kind of happy with it. I’d rather go over than under. Sometimes I do that in practice, so I’m used to it. At least I didn’t fly completely off of the floor.”
It didn’t keep her from soaring. Her floor exercise score was .75 higher than any competitor, and she posted the highest score of the night on vault.
In some ways, her coach Laurent Landi is working to push Biles to expand just enough to keep things interesting while keeping her sharp in the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics next year. He said the four-time Olympic gold medalist is still improving – and more importantly, still wants to improve.
He said her performance Saturday was, “all she really needs for next year.”
“You don’t just do it for yourself, you do it for other people,” Biles said. “And that’s where I find the joy in it now. It’s super-exciting to have another title, but there’s always more work to do. We still need to work on a little bit more consistency, and some of the form on some of the events. . . . This is a stepping stone. Every event I go to helps with my confidence.”
As the only gymnast to win four all-around world titles, she probably doesn’t need much of a boost in that department. But to keep performing at such a high level tells her there’s more to be done.
“It’s almost scary,” she said. “. . . You get that energy and it’s like, “Can I do it?’ But it shows, even with these hard routines we’re working on, we’re hitting it, so that’s all I can ask.”
Biles finished with 60.000 points in the all-around, with Riley McCusker (57.900) and Grace McCallum was (57.700) behind her.
The U.S. also named six gymnasts to the team that will compete in the Pan American Games starting Wednesday in Lima, Peru. In addition to McCusker and McCallum, Morgan Hurd, Kara Eaker Aleah Finnegan and Leanne Wong were named to the team, with Shilese Jones as the non-traveling alternate.
Eaker was Saturday’s winner on the balance beam, with Hurd, who won the 2017 world championship while Biles took the year off, won on the parallel bars.