Simone Biles warming up prior to the women's senior competition at the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Aug. 11, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
One skill to rule them all.
The gymnastics world championships in Stuttgart, Germany, have yet to begin, and a new phenomenon has already emerged that has the gymnastics world buzzing.
Naturally, it has to do with Simone Biles, who will be attempting to become the first female gymnast ever to capture five all-around world titles — as well as a slew of other historic feats — from Oct. 4 to 13. The star of the show-before-the-show in Stuttgart has been Biles’ new skill, a double backflip with three complete twists on floor exercise, colloquially known as the “triple-double.”
The 22-year-old, a 14-time world champion and four-time Olympic gold medalist who many refer to as the greatest of all time in women’s gymnastics, first brought out the element this spring, when she casually posted a video of herself landing it on a training floor. That got people talking, but once Biles did it in podium training ahead of the U.S. Classic in July, it became almost as much of a sensation as Biles herself.
The triple-double is accompanied by her brand new, ultra-difficult dismount on balance beam, a double backflip with two twists — you guessed it, a “double-double” — a twist more than she’s competed in the past. Biles is the only woman ever to have landed a triple-double on floor in competition, which she did at this summer’s U.S. Gymnastics Championships, and she’s the only person ever to have done — or even fathomed, really — her intensely difficult beam dismount, which she also performed at nationals.
All this plays into the supreme difficulty that has long been Biles’s calling card in gymnastics. One of the reasons she’s been nearly untouchable in international competition since entering the senior ranks in 2013 is that she’s capable of doing the hardest skills with impeccable execution, which translates into very high marks in gymnastics’ scoring system.
If she does the new skills well in Stuttgart, both will be named for her. In gymnastics, the person who pioneers a skill — that is to say, who does it without a major fault in major international competition — has the honor of having the skill carry their name in the code of points, the International Gymnastics Federation’s grand encyclopedia of elements.
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The code is peppered with “named” skills that hark back to the greats of the sport, and a typical gymnastics routine contains several skills that have been named for past innovators.
Biles already has two skills named after her: the double layout with a half turn out that she performs in her second tumbling pass on floor has been known as the Biles since 2013; last year, she became the first woman to do a roundoff, half on, front layout double twist vault, which is now also called the Biles. Should she get the triple-double named for her on floor, it will be the Biles II.
It’s not just Biles who could perform the triple-double in Stuttgart — her American teammates Jade Carey and MyKayla Skinner have each posted videos of themselves training it too, though neither has shown it so far in training in Stuttgart.
Nonetheless, the social media element has brought a whole new level of anticipation for the skill, especially with the ability to compare the videos side by side.
And what if Biles and Carey, or even Biles and Carey and Skinner, all perform the skill successfully at worlds? It would be named for all three of them, according to the International Gymnastics Federation, even if Biles performs it in the team competition or all-around final and Carey or Skinner didn’t do it until the event final on floor.
The new additions to the code would give Biles a total of four skills that bear her name, a feat only a handful of other gymnasts have achieved. Just one more slice of history for the GOAT.
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.