Simone Biles can fall multiple times and still win. She had to prove that on the global stage for the first time Thursday.
Biles overcame her first two falls in more than 60 career Olympic or world champs routines to grab a record-breaking fourth world all-around title, crowning her the best gymnast less than a year after she returned from a 14-month break.
She later apologized on Twitter for giving fans “a heart attack.”
“This one has probably been the hardest to get out of all my world championships and Olympic medals, and the scariest one,” the 21-time medalist Biles said, according to the International Gymnastics Federation. “A bit disappointing because that’s not the performance I would hope to give.”
Biles distanced Japan’s Mai Murakami by 1.693 points, the largest women’s world all-around margin of victory under the 12-year-old Code of Points. Why with two falls? Because her difficulty — which accounts for roughly 40 percent of scores — is 2.7 points greater than anybody else, by far her greatest d score edge of her five Olympic/world all-around titles. Falling off an apparatus is a one-point deduction.
Murakami held off 2017 World champ Morgan Hurd for silver by .066.
The four-time Rio Olympic champion shockingly sat down her opening vault landing and scored 14.533. She came off the balance beam two rotations later and tallied 13.233.
“I didn’t know if I was going to pull it off today, and then I started doubting myself,” she said. “I was definitely shocked.”
Remember, she’s competing with a kidney stone that she named the “Doha Pearl,” which was too big to pass in an emergency room visit on Friday night and Saturday morning. The U.S. prepared an alternate Tuesday team final lineup without her in case she had to withdraw, but Biles said Thursday the pain was manageable.
Not that it made her much less of an overwhelming favorite. Biles had the highest score in qualifying by 4.5. The falls did not put her in a precarious position in the standings.
“Instead of thinking I could win, I was thinking ‘Oh, Biles can fall,'” Murakami said.
Biles still led by .092 going into her last routine, floor exercise, where she is a full point better than the rest of the world.
“I was like, ‘Well, today seems to be horrible, so let’s see what else can go wrong,'” Biles said. “Then I had to get those bad thoughts out of my head.”
She went out of bounds on her first tumbling pass but still scored a 15, highest of the day by that full point.
That made it the largest overall gap in the women’s all-around at worlds since the perfect-10 judging system was thrown out in 2006. Shawn Johnson held the previous margin-of-victory record of 1.25 points from 2007.
Biles also broke her tie with retired Russian Svetlana Khorkina for the most women’s all-around titles. And matched retired Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo for the most career world gold medals with 12.
Biles can surge past Scherbo on Friday and Saturday with four more gold opportunities in apparatus finals. She could become the first woman to earn six medals at a worlds since Soviet Yelena Shushunova in 1987.
“Hopefully in [apparatus] finals I’ll get to redeem myself,” Biles said.
Hurd, who won last year’s title in Biles’ absence, led after vault and was second to Biles after bars. But she put her hands down to keep from falling off the beam, where she scored 12.933. Hurd recovered on floor, moving from fourth to bronze.
“If you would have told me two years ago I would have had this many worlds medals, I would have never believed you,” said Hurd, a revelation since placing sixth at the 2017 U.S. Championships.
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!Follow @nzaccardi