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Simone Biles Smashes Records, Drives Fans Wild With Triple-Double During Floor Exercise

The five-time Olympic medalist became the first woman to perfect the triple-twist, double-flip move in her first pass on floor.
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Simone Biles Soars to Her Sixth U.S. Gymnastics Title

(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) — The choice was entirely hers. Only there really wasn’t of one for Simone Biles to make.

Sure, she could have taken her triple-twisting double-flip (aka “the triple-double”) out of her floor exercise routine during the final night of the U.S. women’s gymnastics championships on Sunday. She surely didn’t need it to assure herself of another national title.

Still, even as her coach Laurent Landi left the option up to her after the Olympic champion’s bid to become the first woman to complete the triple-double in competition came up a bit short on Friday, he knew the answer.

Spend enough time in the gym around the 22-year-old who is redefining what’s possible in her sport one exhilarating routine at a time and it quickly becomes evident that sidestepping a challenge isn’t really her thing.

So she threw it at the end of her first tumbling pass, fueled by adrenaline, ambition and otherworldly skill. When the dizzying combination ended with her feet firmly on the floor — if barely in bounds — the jolt through the packed arena was palpable. The smile on her face unmistakable. And the competition — just like it has been for six years and counting whenever Biles is involved — was over.

The triple-double served as the exclamation point on her sixth national championship. Her two-day total of 118.500 was nearly five points clear of 16-year-old Sunisa Lee in second and more almost seven points ahead of third-place finisher Grace McCallum.

Yet Biles doesn’t pay too much attention to the margin or her scores for that matter. She’s been a fixture atop the podium for six years and counting. Attempting to find the boundaries of her immense talent is what drives her.

It’s why she got so angry after putting both hands down as she tried to land the triple-double on Friday. It’s why she never thought about ditching it on Sunday. And it’s why she sneaked a peek at her phone while rotating from floor to balance beam, typically a no-no during a meet. Well, at least for anyone not named Simone Biles.

“I wanted to see how it looked,” she said.

Here’s a word: historic.

“It’s like she hit a hole in one and we were all there,” USA Gymnastics high performance director Tom Forster said. “It’s a big deal and we all know it. No one in the world has done it before in the women and actually, she does it better than most of the men who have done it. She should be super excited about that.”

She was. When Biles finished off a two-hour showcase that highlighted how wide the gulf between herself and the rest of the world has become by drilling her dismount on uneven bars: she danced.

Well, sort of. Biles gave Landi a relieved high-five before sticking out her tongue and waving her arms as she ran to hug the rest of competitors in her rotation.

The anger of Friday night — when she openly seethed after shorting the triple-double and making a bit of a mess on bars — was gone.

“I was a lot happier today,” Biles said. “I feel I haven’t been as confident on bars this year as I was last year. To finally do a good routine like I can do it, I was really happy. I was very happy and the last event, so I was like, ‘Thank God we’re done.’”

For now anyway. Biles is two months away from a trip to the world championships — where her 20 medals are tied for the most by a female gymnast — and a year away from a return to the Olympics. She was a sensation in 2016, cementing her status as one of the best ever with two weeks of gymnastics that came as close to perfection as the sport allows.

A year to go before a return trip to the games, Biles is even better. And really, it’s not close.

“She’s a freaking beast,” said MyKayla Skinner, an alternate on the 2016 Olympic team who clinched a spot on the national team by finishing eighth. “Like, I don’t even understand. I always ask her, ‘Do you realize how good you are?’ And she’s like ‘Yeah, but I don’t know.’ It just comes so naturally, it’s amazing.”

In a sport that sometimes forces athletes to choose between skill and execution, Biles doesn’t have to. She not only puts together the most difficult routines in the world, she does them better than anyone else. Biles won floor, balance beam and vault and finished third on bars even with her “meh” set on Friday.

“She does stuff that I never thought people could do,” Lee said.

Lee and 2017 world champion Morgan Hurd were the only women in the field to place ahead of Biles on any event, finishing one-two on bars, solidifying their chances of joining Biles at world championships in Germany in October in the process.

Hurd rebounded from a rocky floor exercise on Friday that dropped her to eighth overall to zoom up to fourth despite admitting she “wanted to throw up a little” when the night began. She promised she would be better on Sunday and she was, despite a technical glitch before her floor when the music started before she took her starting position. She walked off the podium, exhaled and then went out and drilled her set.

“I think more than anything, tonight just really helped my confidence,” Hurd said.

Something every gymnast struggles with sometimes. Biles included. Yes, really. It speaks to her inner perfectionist that even after finishing the triple-double, she still knows it wasn’t quite her best.

“It wasn’t as good as in some of the trainings,” she said. “But I’m just happy that I landed it because after night one, my confidence got shot down. So I was really worried about it going into today and that was all I could worry about.”

Not anymore.

Sports – TIME

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Simone Biles on USA Gymnastics’ Failure to Stop Abuse: ‘You Couldn’t Protect Us’

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The mix of rage, disappointment and grief are still there. Just under the surface.

And while Simone Biles tries to stay focused on the healing process more than 18 months after the Olympic gymnastics champion revealed she was among the hundreds of athletes abused by disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar, there are times when the massive systemic breakdown that allowed Nassar’s behavior to run unchecked for years becomes too much.

“It hits you like a train wreck,” Biles said Wednesday as she prepared for the U.S. championships.

One that leaves the greatest gymnast of her generation and the face of the U.S. Olympic movement ahead of the 2020 Games in a difficult spot.

She still loves competing, pushing herself and the boundaries of her sport in the process.

And yet the 22-year-old still finds herself working under the banner of USA Gymnastics and by extension the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Both organizations were called out by Congress along with the FBI last week in a scathing report that detailed a series of catastrophic missteps that allowed Nassar — a longtime trainer with USA Gymnastics as well as Michigan State University — to continue to abuse patients even after athletes started questioning his methods in the summer of 2015.

While Nassar is now behind bars for the rest of his life and USA Gymnastics has undergone a massive overhaul in leadership since the 2016 Olympics as it fights to retain its status as the sport’s national governing body, the scars remain fresh for Biles, though she knows that doesn’t make her different from the other women who were abused by Nassar under the guise of treatment.

“I don’t mean to cry,” the typically poised Biles said through tears two days before attempting to win her sixth national title. “But it’s hard coming here for an organization having had them failed us so many times. And we had one goal and we’ve done everything that they’ve asked us for, even when we didn’t want to and they couldn’t do one damn job. You had one job. You literally had one job and you couldn’t protect us.”

Biles is in therapy to help deal with the emotional fallout, well aware that progress will be slow and that a full recovery might not be possible.

“Everyone’s healing process is different and I think that’s the hardest part,” she said. “Because I feel like maybe I should be healed or this or that. But I feel like it will be an open wound for a really long time and it might not ever get closed or healed.”

So Biles is doing what she can, trying to find a balance between her pursuit to become the first woman in more than 50 years to repeat as Olympic champion while using her status as the face of her sport to effect change.

“When we tweet, it obviously goes a long way,” she said. “We’re blessed to be given a platform so that people will hear and listen. But you know, it’s not easy coming back to the sport. Coming back to the organization that has failed you. But you know, at this point, I just try to think, ‘I’m here as a professional athlete with my club team and stuff like that.’ Because it’s not easy being out here. I feel every day is a reminder of what I went through and what I’ve been through and what I’m going through and how I’ve come out of it.”

The process in some ways is getting easier. There were days early in her return to training in the fall and winter of 2017 and early 2018 when she would quit in the middle of practice and walk out of the gym without a word to coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi as to why.

Those days are gone. Biles says therapy has helped her rediscover her joy for the sport she is redefining at every meet.

Still, the effects of her experience with Nassar, combined with the inability of USA Gymnastics, the USOPC and the FBI to act decisively when athletes alerted them about his conduct, linger. She can feel it when she is introduced to a new staff member at USA Gymnastics and sense it in her reluctance to meet with trainers after practice.

“How can we trust them?” Biles said. “They bring in new people all the time and I automatically put my foot up because the people that I had known for years had failed us.”

Asked if she’s optimistic that USA Gymnastics — which is on its fourth president and CEOsince March 2017 and filed for bankruptcy last fall in an effort to halt the decertification process — can find a way forward, Biles shrugged.

Yes, the organization has taken several steps in addressing what it acknowledges was a toxic culture that played a role in Nassar hiding in plain sight, including updating its Safe Sport policy to provide better protection for athletes and clearer guidelines for coaches, parents, trainers and club owners on what constitutes abuse.

Yet Biles is wary. She has watched for the last three years as every step forward by USA Gymnastics is met with a step backward. Biles is intent on making sure she leaves gymnastics in a better place. She hopes the organization she competes for is sincere in its attempts to do the same.

For now, she doesn’t sound convinced.

“All we can do at this point is have faith that they’ll have our backs, they’ll do the right thing,” she said. “But at the end of the day it’s just a ticking time bomb. We’ll see. It’s a waiting game.”

Sports – TIME

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Biles sets record for world championship golds

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USA Gymnasitcs Chief Quits After Simone Biles Criticism

Mary Bono, USA Gymnastics,

Mary Bono, the interim CEO and president of USA Gymnastics, stepped down on Tuesday with just four days in the role, according to Business Insider. The resignation came after what she referred to as “personal attacks” from Olympic champion Simone Biles. “It is with profound regret, coupled with a deep love for the sport of […]

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