Simone Biles competes at the 2018 FIG Artistic Gymnastics Championships on Oct. 27, 2018 in Doha, Qatar.
What's better than being the best? How about being even better.
Simone Biles set the bar impossibly high in the last Olympic quad, culminating in four gold medals and a bronze in Rio. Then she came back this summer from her planned post-Olympic break and already performed above that level.
At 21, the Texan returned to competition after just nine months in the gym to win the U.S. Classic in July, then became the first woman to claim five U.S. all-around title in August in Boston, where she also finished first on all four events, a first since Dominique Dawes in 1994. That was all a prelude to the big one.
Leading the U.S. team into the world championships in Doha, Qatar, Biles had what might have been the best championship showing of her already G.O.A.T.-worthy career — all this despite being holed up in a hospital the night before qualifications with a kidney stone.
The “Doha Pearl” temporarily under control, Biles went out and made history in just about every event.
Starting in the qualifying round, Biles posted the top score on three of the four events and completed an incredibly difficult vault, involving a half-twist onto the vault table, followed by a somersault with two twists before landing blindly on the mat. Because she was the first woman to land that vault in a world championships or Olympics, it’s now called the “Biles.”
In the team competition, Biles anchored all four events as the Americans won by a record 8.766 points.
The only hiccup in Biles’ meet came in the individual all-around final, when she fell on balance beam and vault. And yet, with a huge pad due to her high difficulty, she still won by another record-setting margin.
And she wasn’t done. Over two days of individual event finals, Biles opened by winning her first world title on vault and claiming her first world or Olympic medal on uneven bars, finishing second. Then on Day 2 she bagged a bronze medal on balance beam and closed things off with her record fourth world title on floor exercise.
All in all, Biles left Doha with 20 world championships medals, tying the women’s record held by Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina. She’s also the first American to win a world championships medal on each event during her career — and, of course, the first to win them all in one year, too.
The celebration didn't end when Biles touched back down in Houston. Following a feast of pepperoni pizza and cinnamon rolls, Biles and boyfriend, WWE NXT wrestler Stacey Ervin, relaxed on the beach during a Caribbean vacation. Upon returning home, ESPN The Magazine named Biles the most dominant athlete of 2018.
Not a bad way to end another remarkable year in the career of Simone Biles.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009, including the gymnastics national championships and Olympic trials every year since 2011, on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.