Millions watched Simone Biles’ stunning performances at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Thursday, less than a year into what is shaping up as the most powerful comeback ever executed by a female gymnast, Biles delivered yet another revelation.
Before a smaller but no less transfixed audience watching via live stream, the reigning Olympic champ, already the heavy favorite to win an unprecedented fourth world all-around title in Doha, Qatar, in early November, upped the ante in the women's competition by unveiling a stunning new vault at the world team selection competition in Florida, sending an earthquake of excitement rippling through the gymnastics world.
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The roundoff, half on, front double full off is just a half twist more than the Cheng vault she performed to floor the field at August’s U.S. championships in Boston, but because Biles lands the skill facing forward — meaning she does not see the ground before her feet hit — the movement is considered much more complex.
The vault is so difficult that no female gymnast has ever shown it in competition before. None have even said to be training it, and only a few, including Russian all-around hopeful Angelina Melnikova, are capable of doing Biles’ former vault, the Cheng.
Oh. My. Goodness. 16.000 for @Simone_Biles at World Selection Camp. pic.twitter.com/JYptNXRRvs— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) October 11, 2018
Although a difficulty value for the new vault has not yet been announced, judges at the world team selection awarded Biles a score of 16.0 for the new skill, her highest score since her return from competition after a self-imposed hiatus from the sport following the Rio Games.
On Thursday, her message to the rest of the world was clear: You haven’t seen the best of me yet.
If Biles, 21, performs the vault successfully in Doha, she could have it named after her in the women’s code of points, a special honor reserved for the first gymnast to perform an original skill at a world championships or Olympic Games. Biles already has a signature skill — a double layout with a half turn out —named after her on floor exercise.
The vault also puts Biles in excellent stead to win the world title on the event, which would be a first for her. Although considered one of the best vaulters in the world even before winning Olympic gold on the event in Rio, Biles has never won a world title on the event.
Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.