Simone Biles lived up to the expectations - no small feat when they were as high as the mountains that surround Rio de Janeiro. Grandiose Olympic expectations provideunwieldy, undue pressure for athletes, turning performances that would be wonderful for anyone else in the world into disappointments, solely because others hoped you'd do better. If Michael Phelps had won seven golds and a silver in Beijing, there'd have been traces of disappoinment. If Katie Ledecky had lost the 200 free in Rio, we'd be shaking our heads wondering about an opportunity missed. And thus it was with Simone Biles, who entered Rio will all sorts of expectations and will leave Brazil having lived up to them. Oh, not the crazy ones that had her winning six golds, but the appropriate goals that said she'd make good on her status as the world's greatest gymnast and put on one of the great shows in the gym that the Olympics have ever seen.
Getty ImagesTom Pennington
That what Biles did. She led Team USA to another gold in the team competition, dominated the All-Around, won three medals in her strongest events to go along with a bronze in one of her "worst" events. A bronze in her bad event pretty much tells you all you need to know about Queen Simone's reign in Rio. She leaves with four golds and that bronze, exactly what the gymnastics experts hoped and expected from her. Her Rio was a resounding success.
Getty ImagesAlex Livesey
Does that make Biles the best gymnast in the world? Duh. Is she one of the greatest athletes in the world? Did you hear the medal haul? But does it make her one of the greatest Olympic athletes in history? That's where it gets dicier.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
There seems to be little doubt Biles is the most talented gymnast the sport has ever seen (though comparing across eras, like in any sport, is tough). But the fact that the age-limit knocked her out of the London Games (unfairly, in my opinion) means her medal count one of a half-dozen or so greatest gymnasts to hit the mat at the Olympics.
In terms of all-time gymnasts, Biles will soon be on top without any argument. Assuming she continues to dominate world championships like she has for the past four years, she'll have the most medals in those competitions. But when evaluating Olympians, world championships are meaningless. To the gymnastics community, it's a fine benchmark. In the Olympics, only the Olympics matter and, right now, Biles just put together the sixth-best individual performance (in terms of medal haul) for a woman in Olympic history. She has an impressive, but not unheard-of, four gold medals and her total of five doesn't get her inside the top 100 for all-time performances. And, if we're just looking at Rio, you'd put Biles' performance third or fourth, with some combination of Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Usain Bolt filling the rest of the spots.
Put it this way: Usain Bolt wouldn't be any less of an athlete if he'd quit after Beijing. We'd always remember those three races and consider that one of the greatest performance in history. But he wouldn't be in the discussion for top Olympian if he had.
Getty ImagesDavid Ramos
This is no indictment, not by a long shot. It's merely reality. In evaluation of Olympic athletes we value longevity. There's always a place for one-Olympic wonders, but if you're ever going to be in the conversation with Carl Lewis, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Larisa Latynina or the Williams' sisters, there needs to be depth to the bio
There's always a spot for one-Olympic wonders (Janet Evans comes to mind - even though she swam in multiple, she only shined in Seoul) but if we're going to enter the discussion about all-time Olympians, then they need to have Olympics, plural. Either way, Biles has put up the greatest performance by an American gymnast ever. She'll always be on a short list of the best individual Olympic performances by a member of Team USA and for a woman in the modern gymnastics world (it's been 48 years since anyone was better at a non-boycotted Games). But like Ledecky now and like Michael Phelps in 2004 or Bolt in 2008, Biles has more to prove at the Summer Olympics before she gets her place in that rarified air. Good thing Tokyo is only 1,141 days away.