With all the sincerity Simone Biles can muster, she explains that really and truly the competition she has is with herself. The dominant gymnast, now the three-time defending U.S. champion, is trying to best the routines from her last competition, from her last day in the gym.
It’s not out of conceit – far from it. Aimee Boorman, her lifelong coach, says Biles sometimes struggles with confidence. But rather, Biles’ biggest challenge looks back at her in the mirror.
“It’s truly I want to be the best version of me,” she said. “I just want to go out there and I just want to be Simone.”
Part of that might be by default because, quite simply, no other American is in her league right now. Biles won her third consecutive U.S. Championship at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday, this time by nearly five points – a whopping margin in a sport where medals are decided by tenths of points and not whole ones.
Her win made her the first American woman to with three consecutive national titles since Kim Zmeskal in 1990-92.
After an uncharacteristically shaky performance on the first day of competition Thursday, one that included a bobble on beam and a surprising fall on floor, Biles posted a 63.000 on Saturday for the single highest competition score of her career. The two-time defending world champion called it the best performance of her life.
She posted a 124.100 two-day, event score that put her 4.95 points ahead of second-place finisher Maggie Nichols. Aly Raisman (118.550), Bailie Key (118.350) andGabby Douglas (117.950) and finished third, fourth and fifth, respectively.
“It’s interesting – she doesn’t really see herself as being amazing,” Boorman said. “She just sees herself as a gymnast and she puts other people up on a pedestal and she’s not one of the people she puts on a pedestal.”
With a 1.4-point lead coming into the night, Biles improved her scores on three events on Saturday. That included nearly a point improvement on her beam score.
On each night, Biles nailed an Amanar, considered the toughest vault currently being done, to give her the highest scores of the competition – 16.250 on Thursday and 16.300 on Saturday.
“Maybe the last vault was better, but I was just really proud of myself how I didn’t really move again,” said Biles, a 4-foot-8 powerhouse with a relentlessly positive personality. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, I did it again.’”
To be sure, that gulf between Biles and the rest of the Americans (and the world, for that matter), comes in the difficulty of her routines. Her start values were tied for or were the highest on every event except uneven bars on Saturday.
She followed that with superior execution, scoring a 9.900 on her vault for the highest E score of the meet.
“When her mind is in the right place, and that’s why I think it’s most important for us to keep her very focused and very much realistic about the idea of we have to come as close to perfection as possible in order to keep the world supremacy,” said Martha Karolyi, national team coordinator. “Don’t be happy of being categorically the best in the U.S. because that’s not our final goal. We have higher goals set so we have to match our efforts with the higher goals.”
For Biles, that means being better than herself each day. She has become her own biggest competition, by choice and by default.
That in itself could be a fierce battle. Asked Saturday if she was concerned about Biles peaking now, Karolyi gave an answer that should be concerning to the other gymnasts trying to catch her and to Biles herself.
“She is not even in her peak shape yet, so no,” Karolyi said. “She’s not early peaked.”
Source: USA Today