Simone Biles came to the World Championships without a rival the last three years. She’ll leave them peerless in gymnastics history.
Biles became the first woman to win three straight World all-around titles, prevailing by 1.083 points over Olympic champion Gabby Douglas in Glasgow, Scotland, on Thursday. It’s the largest margin of victory of her three titles.
“I just keep blowing my own mind,” Biles, who said she has a variation of that phrase as her phone background, told media in Glasgow. “If I could crawl out of my skin and see it, it would be amazing.”
And Biles did it with clear mistakes on her final two routines, nearly falling off the balance beam — “the save of the century,” her coach said — and going out of bounds on floor exercise.
“On beam, I think I gave the whole world a heart attack, as well as myself out there,” Biles said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “Then floor, I had never gone out of bounds, but I guess there is a first for everything.”
Douglas, who also struggled on beam, earned silver after taking two years off following her Olympic all-around title. Douglas is the first Olympic women’s all-around champion to come back and earn a Worlds all-around medal since 1981.
“I’ll take it,” said Douglas, who last year roomed with Biles at her first national team camp since the Olympics. “I really wanted to prove everyone that my comeback was real. It wasn’t fake. It wasn’t for the fame.”
Romania’s Larisa Iordache followed her 2014 silver medal with bronze behind the American duo that posed flexing their biceps as “American Woman” played through the arena after they finished.
Biles, 18, is arguably the greatest female gymnast of all time, and she hasn’t been to an Olympics. She was too young for London 2012, though she wasn’t considered the best U.S. junior gymnast at the time anyway.
In 2013, she started a streak of all-around victories that has now reached double digits across all competitions.
On Thursday, Biles broke U.S. records for World all-around titles (Shannon Miller also won two) and World Championships medals with her 11th (Alicia Sacramone earned 10).
She performed nearly at her best on her first two events, hitting her high-flying Amanar vault with a hop forward and sticking her dismount on uneven bars, her weak apparatus.
Then Biles lost control on a front flip on the four-inch-wide beam, needing to put both of her hands on the apparatus to keep from falling off. She scored 14.4 points, which was .566 lower than her qualifying mark. Biles has fought the beam this year, even coming to tears during training at the P&G Championships in August.
“Oh my gosh, what am I doing right now?” Biles said she thought to herself. “It was very weird.”
But Biles’ difficulty and execution on vault and her last event, floor exercise, are unmatched, which gave her the cushion going in to make a mistake and still win. For example, Biles’ vault includes one-half twist more than Douglas’ vault, which equates to an extra half-point in difficulty value.
Douglas, too, struggled on beam with several wobbles and scored a matching 14.4.
Biles is scheduled to compete three more times at Worlds, as the top qualifier into apparatus finals on vault (Saturday) and balance beam and floor exercise (Sunday). Douglas reached the eight-woman uneven bars final Saturday.
Biles and Douglas will be favored to make the five-woman U.S. Olympic team at or following the July 8-10 trials in San Jose. And Douglas isn’t satisfied with her current form.
“I’ve got to add those upgrades in and hopefully be on top,” she said in a USA Gymnastics interview.
In Rio, Biles can tie the record for combined women’s Olympic and World all-around titles of four, held by the Soviet Union’s Larisa Latynina, the second-most decorated Olympian across all sports. Douglas can become the first Olympic all-around champion to earn a medal at the following Games since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.
NBC Olympics researcher Amanda Doyle contributed to this report from Glasgow.
MORE GYMNASTICS: World Championships broadcast schedule
GOLD: Simone Biles (USA) — 60.399
SILVER: Gabby Douglas (USA) — 59.316
BRONZE: Larisa Iordache (ROU) — 59.107
4. Shang Chungsong (CHN) — 58.265
5. Giulia Steingruber (SUI) — 57.333