Simone Biles became the first woman in 11 years to repeat as World all-around champion, scoring a wire-to-wire victory in Nanning, China, on Friday.
Biles, 17, scored 60.231 points over four apparatuses to win gold by .466 over Romania’s Larisa Iordache. Biles led Iordache by .133 going into the final rotation, floor exercise, but is superior to the Romanian on the event and proved it again under pressure. Biles posted the top floor score of the night among 24 gymnasts by .333 — 15.066.
“It actually blows my mind,” Biles said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “If I think about it right now, I’m just like, what? … It’s just really weird.”
U.S. Olympic team champion Kyla Ross won bronze after taking silver in 2013. Ross, who suffered a hip injury before Worlds, moved up after Russian Aliya Mustafina fell on her floor exercise.
“I was really proud to be able to come out and push through some of the small injuries,” Ross said in a USA Gymnastics interview.
Mustafina had won the World all-around title in 2010, missed 2011 Worlds with an injury and won bronze at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships.
“I did not expect anything,” she said. “I put too much of myself into the team competition [Russia won bronze behind the U.S. and China], and there was no stamina left in me for my own thing in the women’s individual final.”
Biles had a funny moment during the medal ceremony, jumping off the podium because a bee was on her bouquet (video here).
“There was a bee on my flowers and then Larisa told me, so I tried to get the bee off and then the bee chased me, and then it got on Kyla,” she said. “I just don’t do bugs.”
Before Biles, the last woman to repeat as World all-around champion was Russian Svetlana Khorkina. Biles joined Shannon Miller as the only American women to win multiple Olympic or World all-around golds. Mary Lou Retton, Carly Patterson, Nastia Liukin and Gabby Douglas all won one Olympic all-around title and zero World Championships.
Biles also ended this streak for U.S. women’s gymnasts: in the 10 previous years, 10 different women were the top American all-around finishers at the year’s biggest competition — Worlds or the Olympics.
That speaks to the high turnover in women’s gymnastics, leading the sport’s followers to ask if Biles could possibly sustain this level of excellence for another two years to the Rio Olympics.
In terms of the Olympics, keep this in mind: four members of the Fierce Five were competing in the junior division two years before the London Games. And the top U.S. woman at the year’s biggest all-around competition in 2002, 2006 and 2010 did not make the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Biles was asked if she aspires to be like Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, who won his fifth straight World all-around title Thursday.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “I think he’s crazy and I have no idea, but I don’t think so because he’s a legend.”
The World Gymnastics Championships continue with event finals Saturday and Sunday. Biles has chances at three more medals (full schedule here).