There was no doubt. The G.O.A.T. was in the building Wednesday during the first day of the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City, Missouri.
Simone Biles, tongue in cheek, rolled into the open practice session at the Sprint Center sporting a leotard with – you guessed it – a picture of a goat emblazoned in rhinestones on the back.
The design was a response to ‘haters,’ Biles said, who criticised her for wearing a leotard with her last name on the back while her World Champions Centre teammates’ did not at the U.S. Classic July 19 in Louisville.
“A lot of the athletes in professional sports have their last name [on their uniform] and it’s something they have a lot of pride in wearing, just like when we put USA on our chest,” the 14-time World gold medalist said. “We have a lot of pride in that.”
The reasoning for the differing leotards was simple: Biles’ had already been made before they realised that teammate Olivia Hollingsworth’s last name would not fit.
“With the goat, it was just funny,” she said of her training outfit. “We were seeing all these comments [after Classic], we figured if the haters can take a jab, we do a jab back. But in a good way, in a fun way.”
The overwhelming favourite to win her sixth U.S. title this week, Biles will potentially make history every time she competes between now and next year’s 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Currently, she is tied with Svetlana Khorkina for most World medals by a woman and needs four medals to pass Vitaly Scherbo’s all-time record of 23.
Pride and courage
“I think it’s important because you’ll go your whole entire career and everybody will tell you, ‘You’re great,’ but the minute you think you’re great, or you say you’re good, they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you’re so cocky. Cancel her.’” she said.
“I think it really hurts a lot of us athletes out here, and at the end of the day, there should be times we can celebrate whenever we do a good routine or if you’ve been on a winning streak for a year,” she added. “I think it’s something you should have pride in.”
In fact, Biles’ winning streak extends six years since she won her first U.S. title in 2013.
That streak is in no realistic danger of being broken any time soon, as Biles once again displayed the triple-twisting double back tumbling pass she showed two weeks ago at the U.S. Classic. She also showed off a double-double dismount off the beam. Neither element has ever been competed by a woman.
Beyond her daring acrobatics, Biles showed why she is deserving of the 'Greatest of All Time' moniker off the field of play. The Texan has used her platform to speak up about sexual abuse and USA Gymnastics’ handling of sexual-abuse cases in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar cases.
An emotional Biles opened up about her frustration with USA Gymnastics: 'It’s hard coming here for an organisation, having had them fail us so many times, we had one goal, we have done everything that they asked us for, even when we didn’t want to and they couldn’t do one damn job,'' she said.