SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — A decade later, Simone Biles is still at the top.
The gymnastics star won her record eighth US championship Sunday night, ten years after her mounted first as a teenage prodigy to the top of her sport.
Billed as perhaps the best of all time, Biles, now a 26-year-old newlywed, posted a two-day total of 118.40, four points ahead of runner-up Shilese Jones. Junior Leanne Wong from Florida took third placeincreasing their chances of making the world championship team for the third year in a row.
Biles is all but certain that she will return to the gym, where she claimed her first world title in 2013. Over the course of two exciting evenings at the SAP Center, she made herself felt in gymnastics even after a two-year break after the Tokyo Olympics , there is the one called GOAT and there are everyone else.
Biles was the oldest woman to win a national title since USA Gymnastics began organizing the event in 1963. With eight crowns, she overtook Alfred Jochim, who won seven between 1925 and 1933 when the Amateur Athletics Union held the men’s championships and competitions including rope climbing.
“I don’t think about numbers,” Biles said. “I think about my performance. And I think overall I got 8 to 8. I guess that’s a lucky number this year.”
The sport has made great strides in the last century. No one has spent more time at the other end of the Bell curve than Biles, who for a decade has used her unique talents to push boundaries in more ways than one.
Peaks shouldn’t last that long. Most top gymnasts by age 26 — at least those who haven’t retired yet — are just hoping to keep what they have.
Biles isn’t interested. Has never been like this. She finds repetition boring. She insists she’s doing it “for herself” this time, and her markedly different approach to her job is solid proof that she’s not lying.
Rather than letting the world share in her journey as she heads towards her third Olympics, she has kept most of her training under wraps and is more interested in sharing glimpses of her life away from the gym.
“I like to keep[my goals]personal, just so I know what I’m aiming for,” Biles said. “I think it’s better that way. I’m trying to move a little differently this year than in the past. I think it’s working so far, so I’ll keep it a secret.”
There seems to be more balance in her life, echoing the “it’s just gymnastics” mantra that fueled her rise.
Age hasn’t caught up with her yet, although she played it relatively safe by her standards on Sunday. She injured her right ankle in Saturday’s practice, which meant she had to miss out on the Yurchenko double jump she did it almost flawless on the opening night of the competition on Friday.
The 14,850 she received for her cheng jump was still the highest of the evening of the event. This also applies to the 14.8 she achieved on beam. The 15,400, which earned her a standing ovation at the finish.
Next stop is Antwerp at the end of September, where Biles will try to contribute to the 25 medals – 18 of them gold – she has won so far in her unprecedented career.
Jones assumes he’s on the plane too. The 21-year-old is a wonder in bars, where despite her height (5’7″) she thrives for someone who chooses to do it for a living. The crowd erupted as she made her exit, her 15,000 point score topped the event’s competition and she finally put 10 months of injuries that slowed her training behind her.
Who will join Jones and Biles at the World Championships remains utterly uncertain.
Reigning Olympic champion Sunisa Lee, who has been battling for most of the year with a kidney problem her doctors are still grappling with, could have a chance as a specialist after putting together a solid balance beam workout.
Wong, one of several athletes aiming to compete simultaneously at the NCAA and Elite levels, put together two standout evenings that included an elegant parallel bars program and a floor workout that makes up for the lack of power with precision.
Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles, teammates to Biles at the 2020 Olympics, who have also split the past two years between collegiate and elite, haven’t been quite as perceptive. Chiles fell off the grid as well as off the beam. Carey only finished in the top 10 in one competition — the vault — that puts a lot of strain on Americans.