Biles greatest with 25th world medal

Simone Biles showing her fluency on the beam at the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart yesterday. She has dazzled throughout the week with five golds, missing out only on the uneven bars (fifth).
Simone Biles showing her fluency on the beam at the World Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart yesterday. She has dazzled throughout the week with five golds, missing out only on the uneven bars (fifth).PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

STUTTGART • Simone Biles broke the record for most world medals by any gymnast, male or female, by winning gold on the balance beam at the World Gymnastics Championships yesterday.

With nearly flawless execution of an extremely difficult routine, the American claimed her 24th world medal to overhaul Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo's long-standing mark.

She scored a whopping 15.066 points on the afternoon's most technically demanding routine to win the gold, with China's Liu Tingting and Li Shijia taking the silver and bronze respectively.

The four-time Olympic champion later extended her world-record mark to 25 when she came in first in the floor exercise, scoring 15.133, while compatriot Sunisa Lee took the silver - her third medal in Stuttgart - and Russia's Angelina Melnikova claimed the bronze.

With her parents, Nellie and Ron, looking on from the packed stands, Biles, in what is likely her final world championships, exuded joy and effortlessness in flipping, spinning, and leaping up and down the 10cm wide balance beam.

The only pity was that her fluency on the beam masks the staggering rigour of her skills and the intense training that makes them possible.

The competitive shelf life of elite female gymnasts is sadly short and rarely do champions manage to extend their careers to two Olympic cycles, as Biles will do at next year's Tokyo Games.

Those who do tend to shift their emphasis from athleticism to artistry as they mature and their bodies age.

What sets Biles apart and truly defines her as the greatest gymnast in history is that she continues to evolve in both the difficulty and artistry of her skills.

At 22, she is doing more difficult gymnastics than she did in sweeping to five Olympic medals at the 2016 Rio Games.

After taking a 12-month hiatus from competition following her Olympic triumph, Biles has added two original skills to her routines - the double-double dismount on beam and a triple twisting, double somersault in her floor routine.

Because she was the first to successfully land the skills on the world stage during last week's qualifying phase in Germany, both skills now bear her name, as is custom in the sport's official nomenclature.

Long after she retires, they will be known as the Biles dismount on beam and the Biles II on floor (to distinguish it from another skill she pioneered on floor that's already called the Biles).

After winning five golds for the first time in her career, Biles paid tribute to her coach Cecile Landi for "bringing back the confidence".

She told the Olympic channel website: "It means the world (that she is here). Cecile has definitely helped a lot because after Rio, (I) kind of trashed myself and my beam work."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2019, with the headline 'Biles greatest with 25th world medal'. Print Edition | Subscribe