Simone Biles, after 14 months away from the sport and while carrying a kidney stone, finished the best major gymnastics meet of her life on Saturday.
Biles became the most decorated female gymnast in world championships history with four golds, a silver and a bronze in Doha this week. She matched retired Russian Svetlana Khokrina‘s record 20 career medals, but owns the tiebreaker with a record 14 golds.
“If you look at how many world medals I have, and then Olympics, it’s just like, how old is this chick? She needs to leave!” joked the 21-year-old Biles, who returned to training last November after four golds in Rio. “I’m really not that old yet.”
Biles, with floor exercise gold and balance beam bronze on Saturday, became the first gymnast to earn medals in every event at worlds in 31 years. And the fourth in history to earn medals in every event at an Olympics or worlds with at least four gold medals.
The others were Soviet Larissa Latynina‘s five-gold, one-silver effort at 1958 Worlds (while four months pregnant), Czech Vera Caslavska‘s four-gold, two-silver haul at the 1968 Mexico City Games and Soviet Ludmilla Tourischeva at 1974 Worlds (four gold, one silver, one bronze).
Only Vitaly Scherbo and Kohei Uchimura have more world medals than Biles with 23 and 21. Expect Biles to snatch that record next year in Stuttgart, Germany.
“I’m really pleased with my performances. Yes, I wish some of them could have gone better,” she said. “I’m most proud that I’m here, made all of the event finals, medaled in all of the events and I survived.”
Of Saturday’s five finals between the men and women, the biggest lock for gold was Biles on floor. She delivered a 14.933, winning by a full point over countrywoman Morgan Hurd, and has now won the event at all four of her world championships appearances and in Rio.
Beam has been less predictable. Biles took her second straight major meet bronze in the event, erring but not falling off the four-inch-wide apparatus, just as she did in Rio. Biles scored 13.6. China’s Liu Tingting came up clutch for gold on the last routine with a 14.533.
“I’m just happy that I even stayed on the beam today,” said Biles, who fell off the beam in Thursday’s all-around and put her hand on it to save her balance in Tuesday’s team event. “It’s been a rough beam this whole entire time besides qualifications.”
Hurd earned her fifth world medal and third this week after team gold and all-around bronze.
“I was actually a little nervous going after Simone,” she said. “A lot to live up to, but I think I delivered.”
Also in the beam final, American Kara Eaker fell on her mount and finished sixth. Eaker, the youngest American to compete at worlds since Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney in 2011, won beam at the U.S. selection camp for worlds by 1.05 points and had the highest beam score for the Americans in Tuesday’s team final.
“I think it was the nerves,” Eaker told media in Doha.
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