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.
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 James, Michelle 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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