Simone Biles competing on the balance beam during the women's all-around final at the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 10, 2019 in Stuttgart, Germany.
Simone Biles has done it once again.
Competing in a sport known for its volatility, where the best-of-the-best careers often last a matter of a few years, the 22-year-old Texan was near perfect again on Thursday while performing some of the most difficult gymnastics ever done.
The result: Another women’s all-around title at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Biles scored 58.999, ahead of China’s Xijing Tang with 56.899 and Russia’s Angelina Melnikova with 56.399. U.S. teammate Sunisa Lee, who was second behind Biles during Tuesday’s qualifying round, was just off the podium in eighth with 55.632 points.
Undefeated in all-around competitions since 2013, Biles has now won the last five world all-around titles she’s competed for, in addition to the 2016 Olympic gold medal. The lone exception was in 2017, when Biles was on a post-Olympic break and teammate Morgan Hurd won the world title.
No other woman was won more than three world all-around titles.
The win also marks Biles’ 16th world title, extending a record she’s held since 2015 (the next best gymnast has nine), as well as her 22nd world championships medal. That’s only one fewer medal than the record of 23 medals held by Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo, though notably men’s gymnasts have two more medal opportunities each year than the women.
Scherbo’s record will likely not stand for much longer, though. Biles qualified for all four event finals this weekend, and last year she won a medal on all four.
As has become routine at major championships, Biles combined her unmatched difficulty and precision through all four rotations on Thursday, eventually building up a 2.1-point lead over second place. That proved to be the largest margin of victory at worlds since the new scoring system was adopted in 2006, and it was also roughly the same gap as that between second and 11th place.
Biles, a native of Spring, Texas, opened the competition with her ultra-difficult Cheng vault, then matched her strong qualifying score of 14.733 on uneven bars. Even without performing her signature double-double dismount on balance beam, which she introduced at this year’s U.S. championships and performed earlier in Stuttgart, she extended her lead to 1.37 points after the third rotation.
Finishing on floor exercise — an event she’s won at all of her previous world championships as well as the Olympic Games Rio 2016 — she bounced out of bounds in landing her other new signature skill, the triple-double, and stepped out of bounds two other times. With her difficult start value, it hardly mattered.
While Biles dominates the attention, her teammate Lee also impressed at her first world championships during what has been an emotional two months.
On Aug. 4, her father John was helping a friend trim trees near their St. Paul, Minnesota, home when he fell from a ladder and was paralyzed from the chest down. Five days later Sunisa was in Kansas City, Missouri, competing in her first senior national championships, where she outperformed several veterans to finish second, behind Biles, in the all-around.
A few weeks later in September, Lee finished second to Biles again at the world team selection camp, this time by just .35.
Then, on Tuesday, she won her first world title with the U.S. team.
All the while, John was following from the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, FaceTiming his daughter and watching her performances on TV from his hospital room.
On Wednesday morning, he finally returned home.
“It's good to be home,” John told KARE-TV of the Twin Cities. “I can't believe that I'm saying that watching TV at my house is exciting, but it is!”
Lee was in fifth place following her double-twisting Yurchenko vault, but her medal hopes took a hit on uneven bars, when she lost momentum on a transition from the high bar to the low bar and had to come off the apparatus. What was expected to be one of her strongest events ended up scoring 13.133, or 1.867 points lower than in qualifying.
Though she finished with strong routines on balance beam and floor exercise, the 16-year-old ended up .767 points shy of the podium.
John will have two more opportunities to watch Lee go for world titles this week, though, as she competes in the uneven bars final on Saturday and the floor exercise final on Sunday.
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.