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Simone Biles breaks gymnastics worlds medals record, gets 5 golds this week

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STUTTGART, Germany — Simone Biles‘ routine this week that no fans saw took place hours before she competed.

Her mom, Nellie, said she made up Biles’ hair in the mornings at the world championships, her first time doing so regularly at a major competition in several years. In the last Olympic cycle, her parents were allowed little contact with her at major international meets.

That policy changed in her comeback after 14 months away from training post-Rio.

“It’s a great bonding experience,” Nellie said before her daughter won her fourth and fifth gold medals to close the meet on Sunday, breaking the record for career world medals and giving her 25 total, including 19 golds. “Whatever is on my mind, I can tell her. I can get a feel for how she’s feeling.”

Nellie had little to tell Biles before what were likely the final world championships events of her career.

She doesn’t come across as stressed,” at this meet, Nellie said, noting what makes this year unique from her five previous Olympic or world competitions. “It’s how calm she is and how confident she is with her skills.”

GYM WORLDS: Finals Results

Biles, who became the first gymnast to earn five golds at a single worlds since 1958, said before the meet she’s 99 percent sure she won’t be back for 2021 or later.

Nellie sent her off into Sunday’s balance beam and floor exercise finals with one of her two go-to phrases: “Just like practice.” The other, which Nellie often tweets at Biles, is “Be the best Simone,” a nod not to get caught up in others’ expectations.

They couldn’t be higher heading toward Tokyo.

For the first time in at least 30 years, perhaps ever, the most recognizable U.S. athlete in Tokyo among sports whose biggest competition is the Olympics will be a gymnast.

After five golds here, there will be talk of Biles trying to become the second woman to earn five golds at a single Games. The other was 1988 East German swimmer Kristin OttoKatie Ledecky and Simone Manuel could also have a say here.

A little reflection: When Biles won her first four world championships medals in 2013, including all-around gold, any expectations had to be held in check. At the time, this stat was key: the previous 10 years, 10 different women had been the top U.S. all-around finisher at the season’s biggest meet. And no U.S. woman had made back-to-back Olympic teams since 2000. Could Biles possibly keep up that level of gymnastics for another three years?

One of her coaches even doubted it. Aimee Boorman, who guided Biles from age 7 through the Rio Games, tweeted on Sunday, “When @Simone_Biles won her first World’s AA title, my co-coach was worried that she had peaked too early for Rio. My response was “maybe she will become the greatest of all time”. So proud of you today (and all days) Simone!”

It’s well-documented that Biles came back stronger off that well-deserved break. She’s introduced new skills on the balance beam, floor exercise and vault, yet decided she needed neither eponymous beam nor vault skill, which carry more difficulty points, in this weekend’s event finals.

“This is probably my best worlds performance I’ve ever put out,” she said.

The motivation and drive are still there, too. In winning the beam Sunday, Biles leaped out of her chair when she saw that her score eclipsed 15 points. Biles is determined to perform a strong beam routine in Tokyo, given she grabbed the apparatus to keep from falling in the Rio Olympic final and dropped to bronze.

Biles has little to say when asked about the significance of 25 world medals. What’s more important to her than all of them, which are kept in a safe, and the daily records are the skills she’s introduced that are named after her in the Code of Points.

“When you’ve had so much success in the sport, what brings you back in the gym is something original, different stuff. It’s not just winning,” said Laurent Landi, who with wife Cecile has coached Biles since she returned to the gym in November 2017. “When they [gymnasts] get older, and when they achieve as much as she did, this is a great way to motivate her to come back in the gym.”

The family and coaches will fly back to Texas soon. Biles expects her mom to throw her usual post-worlds party. It has included a DJ and bartender in the past. Now 22, Biles can enjoy all of it. And maybe find time to put the last six years in perspective.

“Everybody has to end it some time,” she said, looking ahead. “You can’t keep going for the rest of your life. I feel like I just want gymnastics to be part of my life, not my whole, entire life.”

In Sunday’s finals, Biles was joined on the floor podium by teammate Sunisa Lee. Lee, a 16-year-old at her first worlds, took silver to follow her uneven bars bronze on Saturday. She’s been the second-best U.S. gymnast behind Biles this year, a breakout after she was third at junior nationals in 2018.

In men’s events, Sam Mikulak finished fifth on the high bar, which was won by Brazilian Arthur Nory. The U.S. men failed to earn a medal at a worlds for the first time since 2009. China failed to earn a men’s or women’s gold for the first time since 1993.

Russians Nikita Nagornyy and Artur Dalaloyan went one-two on vault, just as they did in Friday’s all-around. Nagornyy, the new star of men’s gymnastics to succeed Japanese Kohei Uchimura, earned his third gold of the meet.

Joe Fraser became the second British man to earn gold this week (Max Whitlock), taking a parallel bars final that lacked the usual suspects. Japanese Kazuma Kaya earned bronze, ensuring the 2020 Olympic host nation does not leave worlds without an individual medal for the first time since 2001.

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Simone Biles ties world gymnastics championships medal record, leads U.S. one-two

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STUTTGART, Germany — Simone Biles would lose count of her world gymnastics championships medals if she wasn’t reminded of the number at nearly every interview stop in the mixed zone.

“I never think of medal counts or anything,” she said after winning her record-tying 23rd medal and record-extending 17th gold in the vault final on Saturday, the penultimate day of worlds. “I let everyone else do the counting for me.

“I couldn’t tell you how many I have if you didn’t tell me already.”

Biles was joined on the vault podium by Jade Carey, who earned her second vault silver in three years despite taking a large step out of the central landing area on her second vault.

Biles performed exquisite vaults — a Cheng and an Amanar — with just small hops on each landing. The scores — 15.333 and 15.466 — were the highest of the 16 total vaults performed by the eight women in the final. She chose not to throw her eponymous vault that carries more difficulty.

Later Saturday, Biles finished fifth on uneven bars, her weakest event, with the same score that earned her silver last year. Belgian Nina Derwael repeated as world champ. American Sunisa Lee earned her first individual world medal — a silver.

“I couldn’t be more happy,” Biles said of her day. “I’m not even mad about [bars]. I knew going into today there was a very slim chance that I would even medal.”

Biles can still break her tie with 1990s Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo for the total medals record Sunday on the balance beam or the floor exercise, the last two finals. She is the favorite on both events.

Biles has said she is 99 percent sure these will be her final worlds. That would set up the Tokyo Games to be her final competition.

“I never think, oh, this could be my last,” she said. “I kind of cherish the moment.”

In other events Saturday, French gymnast Samir Ait Said, who gruesomely broke his leg on a Rio Olympic vault landing, qualified for the Tokyo Games by earning the last available spot from the still rings final.

Said, whose father died in February, earned bronze and knocked Greek Olympic still rings champion Eleftherios Petrounias off the podium and out of an automatic Olympic spot. Petrounias can still qualify for the Olympics via another route next year. Turkey’s Ibrahim Colak took gold, his nation’s first world title.

Brit Max Whitlock earned his third world title on pommel horse. Whitlock will go to Tokyo looking to become the first repeat Olympic pommel horse champion in 40 years.

Carlos Yulo became the first Filipino gymnast to win a world title, prevailing on floor by one tenth. Yulo, 19, became the first Filipino medalist when he earned floor bronze last year.

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GYM WORLDS: TV Schedule | Finals Results

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Mic Drop: Simone Biles wins fifth world all-around by record margin

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STUTTGART, Germany — Simone Biles began the final routine of the world championships all-around competition planning to finish it with an imaginary mic drop.

She had not seen the standings before she began her floor exercise. Didn’t know how much of a cushion she had.

That final pose was a still image of how the 22-year-old Biles is approaching what will likely be the last year of her gymnastics career: Carefree.

She prevailed by 2.1 points over Chinese silver medalist Tang Xijing, the largest women’s margin of victory under the Code of Points introduced in 2006. The margin separating first from second was greater than the margin separating second from 10th.

Russian Angelina Melnikova took bronze, while the other American, Sunisa Lee, was eighth after an uneven bars fall.

Biles matched her winning margin from the Rio Olympics, after which she took 14 months off before returning to full training. She is the only woman with more than three world all-around titles.

GYM WORLDS: TV Schedule | Finals Results

The night before the final, Biles and MyKayla Skinner, the only non-teens on the U.S. squad, were looking at Twitter. Biles has been pretty popular on the platform this season, earning praise from LeBron JamesMichelle Obama and Chrissy Teigen for her triple-double on floor and double-double off the balance beam.

Skinner found a tweet suggesting Biles perform the mic drop. It would be a fitting way for Biles to finish her final world all-around competition (she said she is 99 percent sure it’s her last worlds).

“[Skinner] was like, you should do it,” said, Biles, wearing her 22nd career world championships medal, one shy of the record that she should break among four more event finals on Saturday and Sunday. “I was like, should I if it’s a good routine? It wasn’t my best routine, but I thought it would be fun.”

Then on Thursday, one of Biles’ coaches sent her off into competition with this sentiment: “Enjoy every moment, because this doesn’t last forever,” said Laurent Landi, who with wife Cecile succeeded Aimee Boorman two years ago in guiding the greatest gymnast in history. “Sometimes you forget to appreciate it, and when you get a bit older, you think, maybe I should have enjoyed it a little bit more.”

Landi remembered what happened in the 2018 World all-around final. Biles won by a then-record margin, but she fell twice (with a kidney stone) and called it a disaster.

“Tragic,” she said Thursday, contrasting it with the feeling of hitting all four of her routines this year (save a couple of out-of-bounds landings, minor errors).

Biles has two more days of competition in 2019, then maybe 10 or so in 2020. But so far, the theme of the final year has been illustrated through competing with her last name on her leotard in July. Then wearing a leotard with the outline of a goat’s head in practice in August. Now the mic drop.

Biles is riding a six-year win streak in all-arounds, taking all of them over the last five years by at least one point.

Yet at 22, she’s the only non-teen to win a global all-around since 2003, only improving with more difficult skills since coming back from that post-Olympic break.

She chose Thursday not to throw two of the three skills she’s introduced in her comeback, saying she held back. She still had two more points of difficulty than any other gymnast.

“Sometimes I wonder how I do it,” Biles said. “I wish I could have like an out-of-body experience to witness it because sometimes I think I’m going crazy.

“We [gymnasts] peak when we’re a little bit younger, so I feel like I’m kind of aging like fine wine.”

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GYM WORLDS: Women’s Finals Qualifiers | Men’s Finals Qualifiers

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