|Simone Biles avoids a bee while atop the women's all-around podium at the 2014 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Nanning, China on Oct. 10, 2014.|
Apparently the only thing that can intimidate Simone Biles is a bee.
The 17-year-old American won her second straight women’s individual all-around title Friday at the 2014 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Nanning, China, leading a 1-3 finish for Team USA with Kyla Ross, who surged to a bronze on the final rotation.
“It just really blows my mind,” Biles told USA Gymnastics. “If I think about it right now, I’m just like, 'What? It’s just, I don’t know. It’s just really weird, but it’s really cool.'”
Leading from start to finish, Biles dismissed a strong performance in the final rotation from Romania’s Larisa Iordache, winning by nearly half of a point. However, during the medal ceremony, Biles was spooked by a bee. The newly crowned champion jumped off the podium and dropped her flower bouquet before eventually, tentatively reclaiming the top step.
After helping the U.S. women to win a second consecutive world team title on Wednesday, Biles became the first woman to win a second straight individual all-around crown at the world championships since Svetlana Khorkina of Russia in 2001 and 2003. She is the first American to accomplish the feat since Shannon Miller in 1993 and 1994.
In the fourth rotation, Biles was the last competitor to perform on the floor exercise. Needing a 14.600, she began with a solid tumbling run and scored a 15.066 to complete a wire-to-wire night with a 60.231 final score. That easily put her past silver medalist Iordache, who already had finished with a 59.765 and watched Biles’ performance nervously.
Biles had the best scores in both the vault (15.866) and floor exercise (15.066).
It was a sixth world championships medal for the Spring, Texas, resident, who only began competing at the international senior level last year. She won the all-around and floor exercise titles at the 2013 World Championships as well a silver medal on vault and bronze on balance beam.
She sported a wide grin throughout the medal ceremony, accepting her prize from multiple world and Olympic champion Nellie Kim before glancing down briefly at the shiny medallion around her neck.
For Ross, the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal at the 2012 Games in London, it was her fifth world championships medal, having earned silvers in the all-around, uneven bars and balance beam in 2013 as well as her team gold earlier this week.
The Honolulu-born, California resident was second behind her teammate after the vault, but slipped to fifth after the second rotation, for her the uneven bars, and remained there after the balance beam, her third apparatus.
Heading into the final rotation, she trailed China’s Yao Jinnan, who was in third place, by more than three-tenths of a point, and Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, who was fourth, by nearly two-tenths.
But Yao badly over rotated one of her runs, and Mustafina severely under rotated one of hers — causing her to sit. That opened the door for Ross, who scored a 13.933, and allowed her to leap into third.
Ross finished with a total of 58.232, ahead of Mustafina (57.915) and Yao (57.465).
“I was really proud to come out and push through some of the small injuries I’ve had, and to keep fighting,” Ross said. “To end on floor and, sort of, absorb the energy from the crowd was a lot of fun and to perform on floor was great.”
Brian Trusdell is a writer from New Jersey. He has covered four FIFA World Cups and six Olympic Games during his more than 30 years as a sportswriter, mostly with the Associated Press and Bloomberg News. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.