Biles storms to 2nd straight U.S. senior women’s title


By Jo-Ann Barnas

PITTSBURG – It wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t need to be. Not on this night.

Reigning world champion Simone Biles was so dominating as she powered her way to her second-straight U.S. senior women’s all-around title at the P&G Gymnastics Championships that her sparkling royal purple and black leotard might as well have been a suit of armor.

Nobody came close to pressing her. Biles, who held a 3.150 lead after Thursday’s opening day of competition, was all business from the get-go Saturday night at the Consol Energy Center.

The 17-year-old from Spring, Texas, opened with a 15.500 on floor exercise then a 15.900 for her sky-high Amanar, extending her lead to a whopping 5.150 points after two events en route to a two-day total of 122.550.

But Biles did come back to earth: On the last rotation she fell on a side aerial during her balance beam routine and scored a 14.600. Still, she was never in danger of losing the title. Her margin of victory over the next closest competitor – Kyla Ross — was 4.25 points. It was the highest total at nationals in six years, and was better than last year’s total by a little more than two points.

“It feels pretty good,” Biles said with a smile. “My beam was a little rough but other than that, I’m happy.”
Ross, the lone 2012 Olympian in the event, claimed her second straight silver medal with 118.300 points. Maggie Nichols won the bronze with 117.900.

Those three – plus the next three finishers (Alyssa Baumann, MyKayla Skinner and Amelia Hundley) – were automatically named to the U.S. Senior National Team. The others were Brenna Dowell, Madison Desch, Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear.

For Ross, it was the second time in as many years that she finished runner-up to Biles. And she had to work hard to get there, rebounding from her subpar performance Thursday which left her in fourth place.

“My performance tonight wasn’t what I expected but I was able to finish strong,” said Ross, who’s the reigning world silver medalist. “My main focus coming up will be getting more repetitions in. I made a few careless mistakes.”

Nichols, whose bronze was her first U.S. senior all-around medal, was especially pleased with the score she posted on beam: 14.750.

“It was one of my highest scores ever,” she said. “My goal now is to clean everything up and to get all of my connection consistent.”

Next up for Biles will be defending her world title Oct. 3-12 in Nanning China. The last American female gymnast to win back-to-back titles was Shannon Miller in 1993 and 1994.

Martha Karolyi, women’s national team coordinator, said she was pleased with Biles’ performance: “Certainly we want more preciseness to make sure she’s ready to face the world in six weeks,” she said.

Asked about Biles’ fall on beam, Karolyi seemed unfazed by the mistake.

“A fall is a fall,” she said. “We definitely want to take care of that and we will make that correction. She’s maturing very well.”

In addition to winning the all-around, Biles claimed the individual title on vault and floor exercise. Despite falling on beam, she shared the silver medal with Baumann on the event.

Aimee Boorman, who has coached Biles for the past 11 years, said Biles carried herself the same way she did in the competition opener Thursday night – big smiles all around.

“She just projects herself,” Boorman said. “She’s a happy person. We talk about making her gymnastics joyful. The more she cheers for people, the more relaxed she is. She views her team as Team USA.’’

Indeed. When Biles finished her beam routine, the first gymnast she looked for was Ross, her good pal. The two embraced – but it wasn’t a consoling hug for her fall. Ross, who won the event, was congratulating her for winning her second straight title.

A sign in the crowd seemed to say it all: “I’m here to see Biles Smiles.”