Simone Biles stamps her name in gymnastics history again
The American landed two original skills in qualification at the World Artistics Gymnastics Championships to add her name to the Code of Points twice.
The much talked about triple-twisting, double on the floor is certainly a skill all her own but now it – officially – bears her name.
That was the first of her history-making efforts on Saturday in Stuttgart as she stormed to the top of the standings with her team, in the all-around and on balance beam and floor exercise.
Biles also qualified in second place to the vault final and seventh on the uneven bars.
"I made it into finals. All of them, I guess now," she said before adding with a laugh. "I don’t know. Yay!"
Teammate Suni Lee, who is making her World Championships debut, finished second in the all-around standings but is more than two points behind.
In the team standings, the U.S. met its incredibly high standards and is 5.044 clear of second place China, 174.205 to 169.161. Russia is third at 168.080.
Another day in the office
The nature and consistency of Biles' incredible performances make today feel expected and normal. It is, after all, what she expects of herself.
"Overall, I don’t know. I still feel like I could do better," the four-time Olympic champion told reporters.
"But my goal going into tonight was to not be great, to do great, it was just to do well. I feel like I accomplished that."
In addition to her triple-double on floor, Biles also added the double-double beam dismount to the growing list of elements named in her honor. There are four in total now: two on floor, a vault and the beam dismount.
"I feel like I’m pretty pleased just because that’s how I train beam," she said. "And it finally felt good to go out there and hit a beam routine like I train. I feel like every time I go up to compete beam, I just like bomb it. So it felt really good to nail it."
Lee's debut a hit
For the first three rotations, one wouldn't have been blamed if they wondered whether Lee knew what event she was competing in. She dropped off the beam in the final rotation on her acro series but still found herself trailing on Biles in the all-around standings.
She's the only member of Team USA without prior World Championships experience.
"Everyone is just telling me that I don’t need to be perfect and to keep doing what I’ve been doing in the gym and in training because everything’s been going well," Lee said. "So, it’s not that big of a deal, I guess."
In addition to the team and all-around finals, she'll have a chance for a medal on the uneven bars where she qualified third with a 15.000.
The last two months of Lee's life have been filled with contrast. On the gymnastics floor, she's excelled, finishing second to Biles Saturday, at August's U.S. Championships and September's U.S. World Selection Camp.
Back home, her dad is still in hospital after a fall while helping a friend trim some trees resulted in paralysis below the waist.
"It’s been really hard," Lee admitted. "He FaceTimed me before the meet, and he was giving me a pep talk. He was super excited. He’s doing a lot better. He should also be going home maybe next week."
Tokyo 2020 bound
The top eight teams from Friday and Saturday qualified to Tuesday’s women’s team final. Those were USA, China, Russia, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Italy.
In addition to those eight, Germany, Belgium, Japan and Spain have also now qualified full four-woman teams to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
On the first day of qualification, China topped the standings led by reigning balance beam world champion Liu Tingting.
Their highlight came on the beam where they posted the second, third and fourth highest scores with Li Shijia’s 14.500 leading the way, followed by Liu’s 14.300 and Chen Yile’s 14.266.
For Chen, who stars in Olympic Channel’s original series ‘All Around’, it was her first competitive outing since last year’s Worlds where she finished seventh in the all-around standings.
“After I completed my first routine [on uneven bars], I was pretty happy,” Chen told Olympic Channel before admitting her nerves. “I was nervous, obviously, because I hadn't competed in so long.”
Chen’s All Around co-star Angelina Melnikova had an impressive day, advancing to the all-around, uneven bars and floor exercise finals and posting the fourth best score in the all-around.
Her day was not without drama, though, as her bun came undone during her floor after her second tumbling pass.
“When I was coming up to floor, I checked my bun and thought about whether I should re-do it, but I decided not to,” she said in the mixed zone after competition. “On the second pass, it came undone and the rest of the floor routine, I was just thinking about my hair, that it didn't get in my eye or anything because I know how much it can bother you.”
Bile's double-double beam dismount has been the subject of much controversy, even before competition got underway.
Because Biles is the first to perform the element, it had to be submitted to the International Gymnastics Federation’s Women’s Technical Committee (WTC) to be assigned a value. Every skill in gymnastics is rated from A to J. An A element earns .100, while a J skill earns an athlete 1.000 toward their difficulty score.
It’s taken nearly 40 years for an athlete, Biles, in this case, to upgrade from the full-twisting double back dismount off beam to a double-twisting version. The WTC awarded it an H value, just one difficulty level higher than the easier full-twisting version, sparking reactions from around the gymnastics world including from Biles, herself.
“They keep asking us to do more difficulty and to give more artistry, give more harder skills. So we do, and then they don’t credit it, and I don’t think that’s fair,” the four-time Olympic champ told NBC.
Then came opposing statements from the FIG and USA Gymnastics:
“In assigning values to the new elements, the WTC takes into consideration many different aspects; the risk, the safety of the gymnasts and the technical direction of the discipline,” the FIG wrote.
“The direction of the FIG for the past two Olympic cycles has been to encourage the perfect execution and beautiful artistic performance, while continuing the development of the skills. With this in mind, the WTC has assigned a “reasonable” difficulty value to the dismount, reflecting on these many aspects.”
USA Gymnastics disagreed saying, “USA Gymnastics respectfully disagrees with the value assigned to the balance beam dismount described as a “double salto backwards tucked with 2/1 twist (720˚) that was submitted on behalf of Simone Biles. We had hoped the Women’s Technical Committee would revise the valuation after sent them an inquiry, but recognize that the WTC is the deciding body for these issues.”