KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Three twists and two flips from a running start, then landing back your feet.
It’s unprecedented. No one had ever done it in women’s gymnastics. Not until Sunday night, at least, when Simone Biles did. And the video was going viral.
So Biles, with two routines left at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, part of the Team USA Champions Series, presented by Xfinity, grabbed her phone.
“I didn’t want to be the last person to see it,” the four-time Olympic champion said. “So I went online to see what it looked like.”
Then she hit retweet a couple times and continued on to her sixth all-around victory in six tries at the U.S. championships, tying a record set in an era when women’s gymnastics still had an event called the flying rings.
Biles has been rewriting the gymnastics history books for years, and the 22-year-old from Spring, Texas, stepped it up once again this weekend at the two-day competition in Kansas City, Missouri.
On Friday, the double-double was more than a Canadian coffee drink when Biles stuck a dismount of the same name off the balance beam. Until then, no gymnast had ever landed that double twisting-double somersault off the apparatus.
Two days later, and carrying a 1.75-point lead, she played it safer on balance beam — eschewing the double-double for an “easier” full twisting double somersault. But she left the 12,230 strong at the Sprint Center in awe a few minutes later when she landed the equally outrageous triple-double on floor exercise.
After that, the national championship was a formality, as Biles scored 118.500 over the two-day competition to outpace the field by 4.95 points — a larger gap than that between second and ninth place. Two Minnesotans, Sunisa Lee (113.550) and Grace McCallum (111.850), finished second and third.
Biles also claimed the national titles on balance beam, floor exercise and vault, while finishing third in her “weakest” event, uneven bars. That boosts her career tally to 20 national championships. Not that she’s counting. The focus tonight was on hitting her new routines.
“I feel like if I go out here and do what I’m supposed to, I should be OK in the rankings,” she said.
Attention next turns to the world championships in October in Stuttgart, Germany. Should Biles land either move there, they’ll be named for her in the gymnastics code of points.
That’s the reward for a gymnast who does something no one has ever done before.
Biles already has two moves named after her — one a double layout half out on floor, the other a Yurchenko half on with two twists vault.
The two she showed in Kansas City are at another level.
Tom Forster, the U.S. women’s high-performance team coordinator, said the next frontier in women’s vault could come as soon as the next Olympic quad in the form of a Yurchenko double back.
“I think she has maxed it out on floor for sure,” he said.
“No one is going to do a more difficult balance beam dismount than a double-double.”
Not even in 50 years?
“I think they would have to change the equipment, really, for that to happen,” Forster said. “Gravity is still gravity.”
And Simone Biles is still Simone Biles, a step ahead of everyone else in the sport.
Opening on floor exercise Friday, Biles was so powerful in her triple-double that she bounced high into the air and had to put her hand down on the floor to save herself from falling over. She said she was almost in tears after that, and the negative vibes carried with her until the end of the night, when she finished with a stuck landing on the double-double beam dismount.
The vibes flipped Sunday.
“You carry that momentum through the whole entire meet,” she said. “I feel like the first day I was doing angry gymnastics and I was just really upset, and then today it was it was just like that’s normal and happy.”
It showed throughout.
With fans reaching into the upper deck tracking her every move, Biles opened the night with another strong performance on balance beam, recording the meet’s third-best score of 14.700 even without the double-double — her 14.950 on Friday remained tops.
Then came the floor exercise, the event Biles has never not won gold on at an Olympics or world championships, where she turned the triple-double on her first tumbling pass into a score of 15.100. Of the five scores to hit that 15-point threshold this week, Biles had three of them.
The two others came on vault, where Biles moved to next and performed two of the most difficult vaults — the Amanar and the Cheng — with businesslike precision, with her average score of 15.300 matching that from Friday. No one scored higher across any event in Kansas City.
Biles finished on uneven bars, an event she couldn’t wait to move on from after a shaky performance Friday. This time she was on point, with her Sunday score of 14.700 tying for the second-best bars score by any gymnast as nationals.
When she was done, she was seen all over Twitter all over again, this time sticking her tongue out and waving her arms with pure joy as she ran off the podium.
“Never accuse her if not having fun!” former coach Aimee Boorman tweeted.
“I was a lot happier today because I feel like I haven’t been as confident on bars this year as I was last year, so to finally do a good routine like I can do it, I was really happy,” Biles said, adding, “I was like, thank god we’re done.”
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The all-around win was Biles’ sixth in six tries at the senior U.S. championships, a streak dating back to 2013, and tying U.S. record set by Clara Schroth Lomady in the 1940s and 1950s, when the AAU awarded national titles. The only time Biles didn’t win was in 2017, when she took a year off after her five-medal haul at the Rio Games.
As the top all-around finisher this weekend Biles earned an automatic spot at the world team selection camp in late September, and short of injury she’s a shoo-in to make the five-woman worlds roster. Only Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina matches Biles’ 20 world medals, and chances are that record falls by Halloween. Biles, after all, won six medals — four golds — at last year’s worlds.
Tonight, though, was about being in this moment.
“It’s historical,” Forster said. “It’s like she hit a hole in one and we were all there.”
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic Movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009, including the gymnastics national championships and Olympic trials since 2011, on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.