ST. LOUIS – On what many could consider her first true step on the Road to Rio, Simone Biles performed lights out at the P&G Gymnastics Championships, proving why she is ready and waiting for the Olympic gold medal that awaits her in less than two months at the Rio 2016 Games.
The three-time all-around world champion put up a massive score of 62.900 points, leading the rest of the field by 2.45. Sitting in a tie for second is three-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman and first-time senior competitor Laurie Hernandez with 60.450. Reigning Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas is fourth, 1.55 points back.
In her clinic of gymnastics excellence, it seemed Biles’ only mistake was attempting to leave the floor from the wrong podium exit.
“Oh yeah, I almost walked down the wrong podium,” she laughed. “But I wanted to go down the closer one because I was tired.”
And rightfully so. Continuing to show dominance in the event that she won at the past three world championships, Biles scored 16.100 points on floor, half a point more than second-place Raisman, the reigning Olympic champion in the event.
She also had the top score on balance beam (15.700), her first event of the night and one that gives her the most relief once it’s out of the way, and vault, where she topped the leaderboard with a 16.000, which was 0.65 better than the next-highest score.
Biles ended with uneven bars, her weakest event – and the only one in which she is missing a world medal, earning 15.100 points. She said she was most nervous before bars because, “I struggle on it a little more and you’re swinging from two bars, so it’s a little bit scary.”
Despite tying for fourth on the night in the event, it was a win for the otherwise flawless gymnast.
“It was one of my best bar routines ever, and it feels good because I work so hard at bars.”
Friday night’s competition marked only the second time this year that the 19-year-old has performed on all four apparatuses. She opted to skip the AT&T American Cup in March, then won the Pacific Rim Championships in April, and performed only two of four events at the Secret Classic earlier this month in Hartford, Connecticut.
But the lack of recent experience did not deter the 19-year-old from having a blast.
“You just have to go out there and have fun,” she said. “Not many kids get to make it this far.”
Even fewer will make it to next month’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Women’s Gymnastics. Out of a field of 24 elite gymnasts competing in St. Louis for national titles, the top eight athletes at the end of Sunday night’s all-around competition, as well as a few selection committee picks, will move on to the trials, slated for July 8-10 in San Jose, California.
While Biles is all but a lock to earn her fourth U.S. all-around title, and become the first woman to do so since Joan Moore Gnat from 1971-74, the fate of many of her friends and competitors will be determined in two days. It’s a journey the all-star is reluctant to see come to an end.
“It’s something we’ll cherish forever because we’ve been doing it so long with each other, so every day is a new memory to make and you just have to have fun,” she said.