Simone Biles wins record ninth U.S. Championship title on the road to Paris Olympics

Biles swept the competition, which was held in Fort Worth over the weekend.

By Sarah AschJune 4, 2024 12:48 pm, ,

The U.S. Gymnastics Championships took place in Fort Worth over the weekend, and Simone Biles came out on top once again.

Biles won her record ninth national all-around title Sunday, as well as every individual event title, bringing her career U.S. medal count to 41, including 32 golds. The win also makes Biles, 27, the oldest woman to win the U.S. Championships all-around title.

Danielle Lerner, a sports reporter for the Houston Chronicle, attended the championship and described Biles’ performance as dominant. Biles beat the runner-up for the all-around by almost 6 points, which is a huge margin for the sport.

This showing was even more impressive considering Biles took several years off training after the last Olympics.

“Everyone probably remembers the Tokyo Olympics, which were held in 2021. [Biles] had to leave the competition early because she was experiencing this condition called the twisties, which is when a gymnast loses the connection between their mind and their body,” Lerner said. “So it makes it very dangerous and difficult to do all these flips and twists midair, because you don’t have a sense of where you are when you’re doing those types of skills.”

After she left the Olympics early, Biles did not spend time in the gym for two years.

“She first got back in the gym in January 2023 and didn’t really have a sense of if she was actually going to compete again, or if she was going to try to make the Paris Olympics,” Lerner said. “And it was kind of just unspoken between her and her coaches that she was doing well and she was going to make her return at some point last year. And so that’s what she did. And she is unbeaten in every meet that she’s competed in ever since she came back.”

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Biles has also taken a leadership role in changing the culture around gymnastics in the U.S. to include more camaraderie between athletes, Lerner said.

“She’s been around for a while; 27 is on the older side for a gymnast. She made her Olympic debut in 2016, in Rio. And she has seen, even in that short time, how the culture around gymnastics has changed,” Lerner said. “A lot of that was in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse scandal. Simone herself was actually a victim of Dr. Larry Nassar.

“So I think that USA Gymnastics has been trying to combat that problematic history and that history of abuse and change the culture. But a lot of it comes down to gymnasts.”

Biles is very close with the athletes she trains with at the World Champions Centre in Houston, and with her USA teammates as well, said Lerner, who described a touching moment between Biles and reigning all-around Olympic champion Sunisa Lee.

“Suni Lee, her first event was a vault and she slipped on the vault table and she basically botched the landing. Simone came up to her after to check on her, and Suni said, ‘hey, can you stand by during my next event while I do bars? That would have really helped me feel better,’” Lerner said. “So Simone did that. She was standing by the uneven bars the entire time. She did her routine, cheering her on, giving her words of encouragement.

“And that’s very unusual in gymnastics. There’s multiple events going on at the same time. Simone was on floor for that rotation. That was on the other side of the gym. She should have been over there preparing for her own event, but she stood there and supported Suni. And she said afterwards, ‘I did that because I know how she felt. I felt that way after Tokyo when I wasn’t doing my best, and so I knew what she needed and I helped give it to her.’”

The Olympic trials for the U.S. women’s gymnastics squad take place later this month in Minneapolis. Biles is basically guaranteed a spot on the team for Paris 2024, and Lerner said we will have to wait and see who joins her there.

“Shilese Jones is another name to watch. She actually couldn’t compete in Fort Worth because she had a shoulder injury,” Lerner said. “But she will be competing in the trials. And she’s one of the best all-arounders that they have.

“The other name that was kind of one of the biggest surprises for me of this championship is Skye Blakely, and she’s actually from the Frisco area.” Lerner said. “She is very young; she’s never made an Olympic team. But she’s kind of been on the rise this season. And then you’ve got some 2020 Olympians who could also return, that being Jade Carey, and then also Jordan Chiles, and Suni Lee is right there in the mix as well.”

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