ST. LOUIS -- As Simone Biles cruised to four more U.S. gymnastics championships on Sunday night, something unexpected happened.
After her second rotation of the evening, and her sixth in three days, the three-time reigning world all-around champion got tired.
So even though she went on to easily clinch her fourth consecutive U.S. all-around title with 125 points — a Grand Canyon-like 3.9 points ahead of second-place Aly Raisman — and added three individual event titles, she also wasn’t quite her dominant self as the meet came to a close.
“They are not bad events,” U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi retorted of her 14.75 on uneven bars and 15.1 on balance beam Sunday. “She is scoring very high.”
But her scores dropped 0.35 and 0.6 points, respectively, from Friday night. And for the world-beating 19-year-old Biles, a heavy favorite to win multiple Olympic gold medals this summer, any imperfection like that is practically unheard of.
She’s not apologizing for it.
“I am human, and it’s good for other people to see me mess up and that I’m not perfect, because I’m not,” she said. “But they only see one routine whenever we compete, so it’s easy for them to say I’m perfect. But the deal is that I’m not.”
The 4-foot-8 Biles has deservingly earned an outsized reputation for her gymnastics. Check Twitter when she performs and you’ll find a chorus of tweets about Simone is superhuman, nobody can match her, just give the Texan her gold medals now.
That kind of attention is flattering, she said, but it can also be kind of annoying.
“It’s just kind of frustrating because even I have my rough days, and even though you guys can’t tell, I can feel it in the inside,” she said. “So whenever everyone’s like, ‘Oh Simone, you’re fine,’ it’s just like, ‘OK, well I know I’m going to be fine, but I still have the right to be tired and stuff.’ But they think I shouldn’t. But they can be tired. So it’s not fair.”
Biles’ comments came in response to questions from reporters asking, essentially, why she wasn’t perfect on Sunday night. It turns out reporters weren’t the only ones demanding invincibility this weekend.
On Friday, Biles opened the P&G Gymnastics Championships with a characteristically spectacular performance. She scored 62.9 points in the all-around and led her nearest competition by 2.45 points.
It was a hugely satisfying performance, she said.
But then she arrived at Chaifetz Arena on Sunday and “everyone’s like, ‘Get a 63,’” she said.
Of course she’d love to score a 63, but — despite how she’s often built up — she’s not a machine.
“If I didn’t (score 63) like really fresh, I probably can’t do it again,” when tired on Sunday, she said. “But it’s not like I’m not going to try.”
And she clearly did try on Sunday.
Starting on floor exercise, an event in which she’s the three-time defending world champion, Biles powered through a difficult routine to score 16.05. It was just short of the 16.1 she scored on Friday, but still well above the field. Raisman, the defending Olympic champion in the event, had the next-best score at 15.7.
Biles next moved onto vault, an event in which she’s finished top-three in the world in each of the past three seasons, and performed the spectacularly difficult 2.5-twist Amanar vault like it was practice. Only a pair of crossed feet prevented her from getting a perfect 10 execution score. Instead she had to settle for 9.9 on execution and a score of 16. That matched her score from Friday and was .5 points higher than the next-best vault score this weekend, again by Raisman.
Going into those final two rotations, Biles led the field by 3.5 points.
Then she got tired.
“I think I was just like anxious for the meet to be over, as bad as that sounds,” said Biles, whose last two routines still didn’t have any major mistakes. “I think I just kind of relaxed a little bit, and I was over-thinking my skills, because I was like, oh my gosh it’s the last two (rotations), we’re almost done. And I mean stuff happens. Its Day 2, we’re a little bit tired and we’re just trying to be so perfect in the moment. And it’s also late at night.
“I mean it is what it is. It’s OK.”
Said on a night on which she won her 11th national title, and when she became the first American woman since the early 1970s to win four consecutive national all-around championships, she might just be right.
After all, in a competition where Biles briefly reminded fans that she is indeed human, she also showed that her good can still blow everyone else’s great out of the water.