STUTTGART, Germany — It’s that feeling that keeps Simone Biles coming back to gymnastics.
It’s not from standing on a world championships medal podium, which she did for a female record-breaking 21st time after the U.S. won a fifth straight world team title on Tuesday. Instead, it’s that unenviable sensation that surges before she competes.
“Sometimes I wish I would quit,” Biles said after leading the U.S. to victory by a sizable 5.801 points over Russia, extending the Americans’ dynasty to nine years when including the Olympics. “The other day, we walked out there, and I was like, I literally hate this feeling, and I don’t know why I keep forcing myself to do it.
“I hate that feeling like I’m going to puke before. But, you know, we love the thrill of it. Reminds me to never give up because one day I won’t have the opportunity to get that feeling.”
That day is likely coming in 10 months. Biles is 99 percent sure these are her last world championships. Every time she competes, she breaks a record or does something unprecedented.
In Tuesday’s team final, the first of six medal events for Biles this week, she broke her tie with retired Russian Svetlana Khorkina for the most world championships medals for a woman. She is now two shy of the overall record held by 1990s Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo.
She will move within one of Scherbo in Thursday’s all-around final. Biles is massively favored to win a fifth title in that event. She’s undefeated in all-arounds for six years. She will pass Scherbo with two medals from her four apparatus finals on Saturday and Sunday. Biles earned medals on all four apparatuses last year, with a kidney stone.
Biles said she doesn’t think of the records.
“Whatever the medal haul at the end is, it’s whatever it is,” she said.
But Tuesday was about the team. Biles is just part of this U.S. dynasty, extended here in a final where all eight teams had a fall.
Nineteen different gymnasts contributed to at least one of the seven Olympic or world titles during the U.S.’ nine-year reign. It’s the longest global title streak for one women’s program since the Soviets of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.
Four women who hope to make Olympic debuts in Tokyo joined Biles in Stuttgart.
They included Sunisa Lee, who at the world team selection camp last month came within .35 of a point of beating Biles. Here, Lee, who qualified second behind Biles into the all-around, had the highest uneven bars score for the Americans. Her fall off the balance beam was the first for an American on any apparatus in an Olympic or world team final since 2010.
She rebounded to hit her floor exercise. Lee is competing while constantly thinking of her father, John, who watched from Minnesota. In August, John fell off of a ladder while helping a friend cut down a tree limb and was paralyzed from the chest down.
A year ago, Lee was third in the junior division at the U.S. Championships. Now, she’s arguably the world’s second-best gymnast, with a chance to prove it Thursday.
“I can’t even believe that I’m here and I’m a world champion,” she said.
Jade Carey, the 2017 World silver medalist on floor exercise and vault, had the second-highest scores of the day on each apparatus, behind Biles. This may be Carey’s only opportunity to compete in a team event on the global stage, given she is likely to qualify for Tokyo in the spring via a new individual route.
The 2018 World team members Kara Eaker (who competed on the balance beam on Tuesday) and Grace McCallum (uneven bars, vault) round out the quintet.
For those two (plus Lee), the tougher competition is arguably making the U.S. Olympic team. And it’s going to get more difficult next year, when the Olympic team event rosters shrink to four.
But first, Biles called for a nap for herself (she’s the team grandma at age 22, the only non-teen) and a celebration for the U.S.
“For all of it,” she said. “For the team. For the medal count. Fifth year in a row.”
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