PITTSBURGH -- Stereotypes of the cold, unforgiving coach don’t apply to Aimee Boorman. The Texas-based Boorman, longtime coach for Simone Biles, discusses the sport with a more casual, even human, approach.
“We talk about making your gymnastics joyful,” Boorman says, “because if you’re not enjoying it, then you shouldn’t be doing it. You sacrifice too much to not be joyful.”
Her star pupil Biles makes quite the case for that philosophy.
The 17-year-old not only ran away with her second consecutive U.S. all-around title Saturday at the P&G Gymnastics Championships in Pittsburgh, but she did so with a bright smile on her face and charisma oozing from her body throughout.
It’s the same killer combination that helped Americans fall in love with two of the sport’s recent sweethearts, Shawn Johnson in 2008 and Gabby Douglas in 2012.
“She just projects herself,” Boorman said. “She’s a happy person. When she’s in a good mood she wants to draw everybody in.”
That’s what she did this weekend. Bouncing off each apparatus with flair and confidence, Biles easily won the all-around title with 122.550 points, holding off 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross by a massive margin of 4.250.
Biles, who also won the 2013 world all-around title, left quite an impression from her two-day performance in Pittsburgh.
Said Mary Lou Retton, the 1984 Olympic all-around champion and U.S. gymnastics legend: “She may be the most talented gymnast I’ve ever seen in my life, honestly. And I don’t think she’s tapped into what she can really do.
“I think she’s unbeatable.”
The fans seemed to agree. For a national championships two years out from the next Olympic Games, and with only one Olympian in the small, 13-woman field, the 12,424 attendance resulted in USA Gymnastics lifting a giant tarp to open up more seating.
Ross and Biles were the big names leading up to the event, but throughout the women’s competition on Thursday and Saturday, Biles stole the show.
The Texan opened Night 2 with a 3.150 lead over second place and wasted little time confirming what everybody at the arena already knew — she’s the best in the United States and, possibly, the world.
With the second routine of the day, Biles’ electric floor exercise routine set the tone. She then launched off the vault with a difficult Amanar — two-and-a-half twists with a blind landing — to easily set the highest score of the day in that event, and then she put up a respectable 14.750 on uneven bars, her weakest event.
Only then, with the victory all but wrapped up, did Biles come back to earth, literally, when she fell off the balance beam. It was her only major blemish in eight routines. Yet with the highest difficulty score by far, Biles’ 14.600 score was still the third best of the day on the event.
The end result was a runaway championship performance in which Biles scored 2.1 points higher than her winning score last year. Biles also won the floor exercise and vault titles this week.
Night 2 was one of redemption for Ross. After an uncharacteristically rough first night in which she fell on a floor exercise tumbling pass and visibly struggled on bars, Ross returned to her calm, elegant self on Saturday. With no major errors, the Aliso Viejo, California, native jumped from fourth to second place in the all-around competition with a final score of 118.300.
Ross said she felt more confident coming into Saturday’s competition, in part because she took a difficult skill out of her floor routine. It didn’t hurt when she opened up the evening by nailing that floor routine in the first rotation.
“Being able to come in and hit a floor, I think it really helped set the tone for the meet today and it definitely made me more relaxed throughout the competition,” she said.
Next up for the gymnasts is a national team camp, where USA Gymnastics will determine the six women who will compete at the world championships in October in Nanning, China.
Barring injuries, both Biles and Ross, who finished 1–2 at last year’s world championships, are certain to be on the squad.
On Saturday, Biles proved she is in a class of her own on home soil. Martha Karolyi, the U.S. national team coordinator, wants to see her do it again in China.
“We are permanently reminding that (Biles’) goal is not winning the U.S. championships,” she said. “But her goal is to be competitive at the world level.”
Boorman, for one, is optimistic. One year after Biles won the U.S. and world titles as a relative unknown, the coach says she’s looking even better.
“Her difficulty is definitely higher,” Boorman said.
Now she just needs to go out in China and have some fun.
Chrös McDougall has been a reporter and editor for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.