U.S. Gymnastics Championships

Simone Biles’ road to GOAT status, sixth U.S. all-around title, and how it almost didn’t happen

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Simone Biles that captivated national primetime TV on Sunday might not have existed if she didn’t change her mind back in 2016. The double-double. The triple-double. The voice for accountability and change in her troubled sport. All gone.

Aimee Boorman, Biles’ coach from age 7 through the 2016 Olympics, decided before the Rio Games that, post-Olympics, she would move from the Biles family gym in Texas to an executive director position at Evo Athletics in Florida. Biles would not be following her.

At one point, “I didn’t think she was going to come back,” after Rio, Boorman recalled Sunday by phone from Florida, “because she was saying she didn’t want to come back.”

Biles captured a record-tying sixth U.S. all-around title by a hefty 4.95 points this weekend. She has won 20 straight all-arounds dating to 2013, returning last year after a one-year break to dominate more than before.

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She became the first woman to land a triple twisting double somersault on floor exercise and the first to land a double twisting double somersault off the balance beam. Both skills, should she throw them at October’s world championships, will be named after her. Biles already has one floor tumbling pass and a vault named after her.

Biles, speaking after Sunday’s coronation, acknowledged Boorman’s recollection from three years ago.

“Yes and no,” she said. “I really did in that moment feel like I was going to be done, but there was a slight chance that I would want to come back. Everyone’s like, oh, you’re going to come back, and I feel like I fought it more.”

Boorman sensed as Rio approached that, more and more, Biles wanted to go for another Olympics.

“I always thought in the back of my mind, why wouldn’t she come back?” said Boorman, who is still friends with Biles, though their conversations aren’t about gymnastics anymore. “It’s so easy for her. At 22, it hurts a little more on her body, but it’s still not hard for her.”

Biles said shortly after Rio that she would take one year off from competition. She performed in USA Gymnastics’ post-Olympic nationwide tour, breaking a rib at one stop but soldiering on without watering down her routines. She suffered perhaps her most high-profile defeat, taking fourth on “Dancing with the Stars.”

She found two coaches to succeed the irreplaceable Boorman: Cecile and Laurent Landi, who guided fellow Texan Madison Kocian to uneven bars silver in Rio.

“If I had to pick coaches that I would want to take her, it would be you two,” Boorman messaged Cecile during the interview process.

The Landis set out to build on what Biles had accomplished with Boorman. The new skills that Biles debuted in the last year? She had already been doing them in practice in the last Olympic cycle.

“Probably 2015, at some point I asked her if she wanted to continue to upgrade or focus on being really clean and consistent,” Boorman said. “We decided to take the safe route.”

By then, Biles was working on a three-year unbeaten streak. Though other gymnasts sometimes had more difficult routines, Biles would prevail on the strength of her execution scores.

“There wasn’t any reason to push it,” Boorman said. “That confidence had built up.”

The Landis helped Biles find new motivation in implementing those unprecedented beam, floor and vault skills and overhauling her uneven bars routine.

Biles said she doesn’t have a goal to get a skill named after her on every apparatus, but she does submit one unprecedented bars move to the authorities before competitions, “just in case I mess up and do an extra half-pirouette.”

At last year’s worlds, Biles had 2.7 more points of difficulty than any other gymnast. That allowed her to win by the largest margin in history despite two falls (and the fact she competed with a kidney stone).

She averaged nearly two points more in start value than anybody else on each night this week. On the first night, she ranked fourth in execution scores but still led by 1.75 points overall. Biles wore a GOAT leotard at practice on Wednesday, and why not: she now starts competitions with a sizable advantage, knowing that nobody dares approach her difficulty.

Biles contends that, in this Olympic cycle, she has fewer people to prove with her routines and results. “I’m just doing it for myself, and I think that’s the beauty of it,” said Biles, who between routines on Sunday grabbed her phone and retweeted videos of her skills that had gone viral (“I didn’t want to be the last one to see it,” she said).

The drive remains. She was nearly in tears a minute into the competition Friday after overcooking the triple-double and putting her hands down on the landing. She used an expletive to describe her bars routine. 

Other gymnasts have come back with unfinished business from the Olympics. Notably Aly Raisman, who wanted and grabbed an all-around medal in Rio after missing a bronze in London via tiebreaker. Told of that, Boorman brought up the Rio balance beam final. Biles slipped and put both hands on the six-inch apparatus to keep from falling. The two-time reigning world champion ended up with a bronze medal.

Beam may have given Biles the most satisfaction between the two days in Kansas City.

“I finally did what I did in training,” Biles said, “so [Cecile Landi] doesn’t have to go back and say, Simone, we have to work on beam.”

Biles reads a Daily Skimm every morning and owns the book, “How to Skimm Your Life.”

“How to choose wine from a wine list. How to do your bills. So it’s a little more adulting,” said Biles, who is the only non-teen to win a U.S. women’s all-around since 1971. It’s another sign that this cycle is different.

“The first four years went so well, so see how this time around feels,” Biles said of her decision to return to training in November 2017. “It went pretty well.”

MORE: Laurie Hernandez hopes to return to national team camp

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WATCH LIVE: Simone Biles eyes more history at U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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Simone Biles goes for a record-tying sixth U.S. women’s all-around title, live on NBC and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday night.

Biles carries a 1.75-point lead from the first night of competition Friday, where she debuted a new floor exercise pass and a balance beam dismount that should be named after her come October’s world championships.

Biles is looking to match Clara Schroth Lomady‘s record six women’s titles from the AAU era in the 1940s and ’50s. Biles, on a six-year win streak, won her tune-up event, last month’s U.S. Classic, by 2.1 points, her largest margin of victory of her four titles in that competition.

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Gymnastics Championships, 8 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Gymnasts are competing to impress selectors for the five-woman team for worlds in Stuttgart, Germany. The roster will be named after a September selection camp, but strong showings this weekend could go a long way.

Sunisa Lee, bidding for her first world team, was the surprise in second place after Friday’s session. Riley McCusker, the runner-up to Biles at the U.S. Classic, and Morgan Hurd, the 2017 World all-around champion during Biles’ post-Rio year off, were in fourth and eighth place, respectively.

The U.S. women won all six Olympic or world team titles dating to 2011, the longest dynasty since the Soviet Union teams of the 1970s.

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MORE: Is Sam Mikulak’s domination good for U.S. men’s gymnastics?

2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships Results

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Results from the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City …

Senior Women
All-around

  1. Simone Biles –118.500
  2. Sunisa Lee — 113.550
  3. Grace McCallum — 111.850
  4. Morgan Hurd — 111.700
  5. Leanne Wong — 111.250
  6. Jordan Chiles — 110.850
  7. Jade Carey — 109.950
  8. MyKayla Skinner — 109.600
  9. Trinity Thomas — 108.750
  10. Kara Eaker — 108.100
  11. Emily Lee — 107.950
  12. Shilese Jones — 107.700
  13. Aleah Finnegan — 107.600
  14. Faith Torrez — 107.400
  15. Gabby Perea — 104.300
  16. Riley McCusker — 84.250

Vault

  1. Simone Biles — 30.850
  2. Jade Carey — 29.900
  3. MyKayla Skinner — 29.525
  4. Jordan Chiles –29.500
  5. Leanne Wong — 29.450

Uneven bars

  1. Sunisa Lee — 29.800
  2. Morgan Hurd — 29.000
  3. Simone Biles — 28.800
  4. Trinity Thomas — 28.450
  5. Leanne Wong — 27.850

Balance beam

  1. Simone Biles — 29.650
  2. Kara Eaker — 28.650
  3. Leanne Wong — 28.500
  4. Sunisa Lee — 28.200
  5. Morgan Hurd — 28.100

Floor exercise

    1. Simone Biles — 29.450
    2. Jade Carey — 28.400
    3. Sunisa Lee — 27.950
    4. Grace McCallum — 27.650
    5. MyKayla Skinner — 27.550

Senior Men
All-around

  • Samuel Mikulak — 174.150
  • Yul Moldauer — 168.600
  • Akash Modi — 168.250
  • Shane Wiskus — 167.600
  • Trevor Howard — 164.900
  • Allan Bower — 163.650
  • Donnell Whittenburg — 163.100
  • Sean Melton — 162.750
  • Adrian De Los Angele — 161.600
  • Riley Loos — 160.650
  • Levi Anderson — 160.300
  • Paul Juda — 159.850
  • Gage Dyer — 158.000
  • Timothy Wang — 155.450
  • Jacob Moore — 155.200
  • Stewart Brown — 153.900
  • Evan Davis — 153.600
  • Kanji Oyama — 152.650
  • Justin Ah Chow — 150.500
  • Bennet Huang — 149.500
  • Kiwan Watts — 147.850
  • Brennan Pantazis — 147.800
  • Michael Fletcher — 145.850

Floor exercise

  1. Samuel Mikulak — 29.300
  2. Yul Moldauer — 29.000
  3. Gage Dyer — 28.750
  4. Riley Loos — 28.650
  5. Shane Wiskus — 28.550

Pommel horse

  1. Samuel Mikulak — 29.150
  2. Stephen Nedoroscik — 28.900
  3. Allan Bower — 28.700
  4. Michael Paradise — 28.300
  5. Donothan Bailey — 28.250

Still rings

  1. Alex Diab — 29.350
  2. Trevor Howard — 29.250
  3. Donnell Whittenburg — 29.100
  4. Samuel Mikulak — 28.550
  5. Akash Modi — 28.050

Vault

  1. Shane Wiskus — 28.850
  2. Timothy Wang — 28.800
  3. Kiwan Watts — 28.800
  4. Eddie Penev — 28.750
  5. Yul Moldauer — 28.700

Parallel bars

  1. Samuel Mikulak — 30.650
  2. Yul Moldauer — 29.400
  3. Shane Wiskus — 29.350
  4. Adrian De Los Angeles — 28.950
  5. Akash Modi — 28.850

High bar

  1. Samuel Mikulak — 28.700
  2. Akash Modi — 27.350
  3. Paul Juda — 26.900
  4. Adrian De Los Angeles — 26.700
  5. Shane Wiskus — 26.550

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VIDEO: Gymnast catches high bar with one-hand save