Simone Biles became the oldest woman to ever win an all-around national championship in taking her record-setting 8th crown against a field considered the best ever by USA Gymnastics
SAN JOSE — When Simone Biles’ magical performance on the floor of the SAP Center was over, San Jose let her hear it.
Fans jumped to their feet, little girls cried, and adults shook their heads in disbelief. Biles embraced her coaches, fist-bumped her teammates, waved to the crowd, and then knelt to catch her breath.
Biles cruised to a dominant victory at the U.S. Gymnastics Championship in San Jose on Sunday night with her high-flying floor routine, in which she took a symbolic bow before continuing on.
“I knew I did a good floor routine, but the girls had to tell me, ‘you hit every pass,'” Biles later explained. “I was like, ‘Wow, I need to see that routine.'” I had no idea. For some reason, it doesn’t feel real.”
It was her eighth all-around national title, a record. Her first victory came in 2013. She is now the oldest woman to win the title, at the age of 26.
“I seriously can’t believe I’m out here competing again,” she exclaimed. “I’m proud of myself for doing that.”
Even against a field considered the best in USA Gymnastics history, with 58 combined world and Olympic medals, Biles didn’t fit in.
She was something else entirely, cementing her status as the greatest of all time by finishing with the highest score on the floor, vault, and beam. Her least favorite exercise, the uneven bars, placed her third.
“Her being able to go out there and do what she’s doing… it was really cool to see, and really beautiful,” said Jordan Chiles, a silver medalist at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo who took Biles’ place after she withdrew due to mental health issues.
It was unclear a few months ago whether Biles would ever compete again. After withdrawing in Tokyo, the seven-time Olympic medalist announced her retirement from gymnastics.
She made a surprise comeback earlier this month, cruising to a commanding victory at the U.S. Classic in the Chicago suburbs, leaving teammates and onlookers wondering if she was even stronger and better than before.
“It’s years of experience for her,” said Laurent Landi, her coach. “You don’t give it up. When you feel good about yourself and in control, this is where you can shine… She can now relax and not think. When it comes to gymnastics, if you can’t think, you’re ready.”
Biles stated that her extended break allowed her to restructure her training regimen. She now has shorter, more efficient workouts, despite the fact that “age is kicking my (butt).”
Friday night’s performance felt like a statement, with Biles looking strong in every exercise. On the vault, she performed the Yurchenko double pike, a move so difficult that she is the only woman to have attempted it in a competition. It came at a cost; she sprained her ankle and was unable to attempt the move on Sunday.
She didn’t need it; she had a 2.55-point lead going into the final day.
Her 15.400 score on her floor routine on Sunday was the finishing touch to her weekend masterpiece.
“That was the best floor routine I’ve ever seen her do,” Landi commented. “If she does this at the World Championships (in September), she will win.” It’s as simple as that. We just need to keep her as healthy as possible while still allowing her to participate in the sport. That’s all there is to it.”
She totaled a 118.450 over two days, nearly four points higher than Shilese Jones, the 21-year-old from Seattle who may have had the best performance of her life but will go home with only silver.
The only question now is whether Biles will want to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. These rosters won’t be finalized until after the trials next year, but Biles hasn’t said whether she plans to compete.
Her victory on Sunday guaranteed her a spot on the national team for the FIG 2023 Artistic World Championships in Belgium in September, though those rosters have yet to be officially announced.
“One thing at a time,” said Biles. “We must take care of our bodies, both mentally and physically.” Gymnastics is our sole focus. We won’t be doing this indefinitely. That is something we must keep in mind. It’s nice to demonstrate that to those young children. It is our story to tell. “Tell us about our ending.”
Nola Matthews, a Gilroy native, finished 12th in the all-around competition with a total score of 104.850. The 16-year-old finished tenth on the floor, tenth on the uneven bars, and thirteenth on the balance beam.
On the men’s side, three of the six men named to the national team were Stanford University athletes. Stanford sophomore Asher Hong, who won his first national championship on Saturday at the SAP Center, will lead a field of six gymnasts that includes fellow Cardinals Khoi Young and Colt Walker.