4 reasons Simone Biles is unlike any gymnast we've ever seen
Simone Biles goes for a record-tying sixth U.S. national all-around title when competition gets underway on Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri -- and by now it almost goes without saying that she is the greatest gymnast of all time. The 22-year-old has more titles than we have space to post (and this is the internet!), including four Olympic gold medals and four world all-around titles. She has won more world medals (25!) than anyone in history.
So yeah, she's really, really good.
And following her incredible performance at the nationals qualifier, the U.S. Classic, last month, it looks as if 2019 -- and the lead-up run to the 2020 Olympics -- is shaping up to be more of the same.
But what exactly makes Biles so good? Here are some of the many ways she is so incredibly special:
She keeps pushing the boundaries of the sport
Biles is known for her gravity-defying floor routines, and even though her skills are leaps and bounds ahead of her competition, she still is constantly trying to add new elements to her already tricky repertoire.
During the U.S. Classic, she debuted a front layout in combination with her double layout-half signature move (known as "The Biles" because she was the first to do it) that very few elite gymnasts can even imagine doing. She made it look effortless, but we assure you, it is ... not.
But it was what she didn't do during the competition that really got people talking. During podium training, she teased another new skill that she insisted wasn't quite meet-ready -- a triple-twisting double tuck. What makes this so amazing? Aside from it requiring two flips and three twists in a tucked position, no woman has ever done it in competition. Did we mention that this is ridiculously hard?
She's virtually unbeatable
There are winning streaks in sports, and then there's Biles' winning streak. She has won 19 straight all-around titles, spanning more than six years. In a sport where the average senior elite career often lasts less than one Olympic cycle, Biles' dominance is basically the gymnastics equivalent to what the Chicago Bulls did in the 1990s -- if Michael Jordan hadn't left the team for almost 18 months to play baseball.
And not only does Biles win, win, win (no matter what), she dominates her competition and rarely leaves her opponents even an opportunity to win gold. She won the U.S. Classic by more than two points -- nabbing a ridiculous 60.0 compared to a 57.90 for second-place finisher Riley McCusker. And McCusker is no slouch: Her total was, notably, one of the best all-around scores recorded worldwide this year.
There was a .75 point deficit between Biles and the rest of the field on both floor and vault. Her astounding 15.65 score on the latter was the top score of the day on any event.
The rest of the world doesn't fare much better against her -- Biles won the all-around titles at the Rio Olympics and the 2018 world championships (with a kidney stone, no less) both by almost two points. As her teammate and friend Aly Raisman, who finished in second at the 2016 Games, famously said: "If you get silver, you're the best because Simone doesn't count."
She has no weaknesses
If Biles had a weakness (and we say that relatively speaking) heading into Rio, it was on bars. She often talked about how much she struggled and disliked competing in the event, and she had never won a world or Olympic medal on the apparatus. However, she has made a considerable effort to improve on the event during her comeback after her post-Olympic break, and, goodness gracious, now she's an actual medal threat on that event too.
Since Rio, she has teamed up with new coach Laurent Landi, who previously coached 2016 Olympic bars silver medalist Madison Kocian, and trained with former bars national champion Ashton Locklear until her retirement earlier this year. And it has paid off. Biles won the silver medal at nationals last year, and then did the same at worlds. So while everyone was amazed by her five medals during Rio, she realistically could take home six in Tokyo.
She's a vocal leader
Not only is Biles the best gymnast of all time, she also has a winning personality. Known for her hilarious quips, charming social media presence and for speaking up on issues that matter to her, she is a force to be reckoned with outside the gym as well.
A survivor of sexual abuse from former team doctor Larry Nassar, she has been a fierce advocate for her fellow survivors, and even wore a teal leotard in solidarity during nationals in 2018. She has spoken up on several occasions when unhappy with the leadership of USA Gymnastics, and it has resulted in actual change.