Simone Biles continues to redefine the norms in American gymnastics: Biles, who had been struggling since her return to competitive gymnastics three weeks ago at the U.S. Classic, delivered her weakest performance yet to win a record eighth American national all-around title on Sunday. Her coach, Laurent Landi, said, “I’ve seen her do her best floor routine so far.” As soon as Biles landed her final pose of the routine, clinching her sixth national floor title, the crowd stood and roared, and the SAP Center shook. It felt as if the nearly 12,000 fans had been waiting two years to applaud a four-time Olympic gold medalist.
Afterward, Biles said, “Whenever I come out here, I feel like I’m in a dream. It doesn’t feel real. I knew I hit good floor routines, but as soon as I came out here and I looked at the score, I was like, ‘Oh, I have to see that routine!,’ because I didn’t believe it. I’m still not believing it. I sense as if I’ve entered an alternate reality. It’s as though I’ll awaken and find it’s all unreal. I’m proud of myself for the performances I gave this weekend.”
Though Biles led after Day 1 and dominated each of the two-day championships rotations on Sunday, it will be the floor routine that sticks in the minds of American gymnastics fans for some time. They came here in large part to see Biles, and they won’t see much else other than “Simone Zone” and “Biles is Back” logos that she flashes after her routines.
A fan who had traveled 1,685 miles from Seattle to see his father and was in attendance had a sign that read, “We traveled 1,685 miles for Biles!” For fans like him, every floor routine, every Yurchenko double pike, every beam set, each bonus-time minute with a 26-year-old whose return to the sport after a two-year hiatus following her four Olympic gold medals in Tokyo was uncertain until this month.
This time, Biles said she’s preparing for the Olympics differently. She isn’t openly sharing her personal goals or whether making a Paris team is one of them. Here in St. Louis, she didn’t speak with the media until after Sunday’s competition. No camera crew followed her around all week as they did until Tokyo.
She changed her vault on Friday to protect her right ankle, which was hurting after the Yurchenko double pike, and taped it during her vault and floor routines Sunday. It meant that she was out of the vault title hunt but, Landi said, the decision was made for her safety and to help her ankle.
Once again, what Biles didn’t do, she said with as much force as what she did.
Last week, the country’s top gymnast and her coach – Biles and Landi, respectively – talked about “hitting eight for eight” or being “normal” in gymnastics, translating to performing routines in training on all four apparatuses each day of the week. Mistake-free.
Like what usually happens in any normal practice day in the gym. Stay off social media. Stay present. Block out pressure. And downplay the meet. Simple as that – hit eight for eight, perform a thousand routines, and the score will come. But for most, keeping that concept in mind in the competitive arena is easier said than done.
With each rotation and each decision, Biles is changing the conventional perception of the sport. After the Friday night meeting, a journalist asked Landi if Biles’ Yurchenko double pike, a skill she’s the only female gymnast to compete in competition, should appear as effortless as it did on Friday when judges rewarded her with an incredible 9.8 execution score. “No,” he replied. “It’s not normal. It’s not normal.”
According to others’ standards, that is. For the remaining portion of this Olympic cycle, or as long as Biles chooses to keep competing in specific gymnastics, the rest of the world will stand by to welcome her return. That was evident at the end of the World Championships, where nearly every gymnast looked better than they did just three weeks prior.
The current reigning silver all-around medalist, Shilese Jones, who had not competed for 10 months due to injuries, was making a comeback at the Antwerp, Belgium World Championships in October to win medals again. Jones placed second all-around behind Biles, won the bars title, and scored a 14 on each apparatus. Leanne Wong, who has been exceptional since her return to Florida’s university after Tokyo, won the all-around bronze, her highest placement at a championship yet.
From here, the national team leadership will invite 18 gymnasts to the selection camp in mid-September, after which they will announce the names of the five women who will represent the United States on the world stage. Alicia Sacramone, the strategic head of the national team, stated at the beginning of this week, ‘We are becoming one of the toughest teams in the world.’
She emphasized that the team’s agility and preparation for competition are as crucial as the results of the competition for the technical chief, Chelsie Memmel. Memmel said, ‘Ideally, we want a mix of experienced and emerging individuals who need [international] experience.’
For the first time since 2017, there won’t be a men’s team selection camp; instead, after the championship on Sunday, the announcement of the world team will take place. 19-year-old Asher Hong clinched his first national all-around title on Saturday and became the youngest American male all-around champion in 34 years. In Antwerp, Hong will lead a group of American men, including 20-year-old Yul Moldauer, the U.S. all-around silver medalist, and 19-year-old Fred Richard, the bronze medalist.
If the championship was any indication, the future looks promising for the American men’s program, which hasn’t won a team medal in any major international event since 2014 when they captured bronze at the World Championships. Hong believes that this is the team that will bring the United States back onto the international stage. Hong stated in the context of U.S. gymnastics, ‘Brett [McClure, men’s program VP] and Jason [Woodnick, men’s high-performance director] are really supporting us in a tough competition and they’re not afraid of our falls.’
Encouraging gymnasts to attempt more difficult skills in pursuit of bonuses post-Tokyo. ‘They know there will be mistakes along the way, and it’s a matter of giving their best effort to navigate these challenging routines. It’s the only way we’ll be competitive against China, Japan, and Russia.
FAQ 1: What is thе purposе of thе national tеam sеlеction camp in Sеptеmbеr?
Answеr: Thе national tеam sеlеction camp in Sеptеmbеr sеrvеs thе purposе of inviting 18 gymnasts to participatе. Following this camp, thе national tеam will announcе thе namеs of thе fivе womеn who will rеprеsеnt thе Unitеd Statеs on thе global stagе. Thе sеlеction procеss aims to idеntify thе most skillеd and capablе gymnasts to compеtе intеrnationally and uphold thе country’s rеprеsеntation.
FAQ 2: Why is thеrе no mеn’s tеam sеlеction camp this timе, unlikе in prеvious yеars?
Answеr: Unlikе prеvious yеars, thеrе won’t bе a mеn’s tеam sеlеction camp this timе. Instеad, aftеr thе championship on Sunday, thе announcеmеnt of thе world tеam will takе placе. This changе in approach is dеsignеd to strеamlinе thе sеlеction procеss and providе a clеar and еfficiеnt way to rеvеal thе mеmbеrs of thе mеn’s world tеam. Thе focus rеmains on assеmbling a compеtitivе tеam to rеprеsеnt thе Unitеd Statеs.
FAQ 3: How do gymnasts in thе Amеrican mеn’s program plan to improvе thеir intеrnational standing?
Answеr: Gymnasts in thе Amеrican mеn’s program arе focusеd on improving thеir intеrnational pеrformancе. Aftеr not sеcuring a tеam mеdal in major intеrnational еvеnts sincе 2014, thе program aims to rеgain its prominеncе on thе global stagе. Gymnast Ashеr Hong еxprеssеd that thе tеam’s coachеs, Brеtt McClurе and Jason Woodnick, providе unwavеring support in compеtitivе еnvironmеnts and еncouragе gymnasts to attеmpt challеnging skills. Thе goal is to bеcomе morе compеtitivе against strong gymnastics nations likе China, Japan, and Russia by continually striving for еxcеllеncе and еmbracing thе challеngеs that comе with it.