USA’s Simone Biles returns with four world golds and lots of buzz (but no bee stings)
Simone Biles sprinted toward the vault, soared above the beam and capped the floor exercise routine with a twisting double backflip en route to winning her second world all-around gymnastics title.
Her smoothest move? Dodging a bee in her flower bouquet on the podium during the gymnastics world championships medal ceremony over the weekend in Nanning, China.
She quickly ducked off the podium, smiled and tossed the bouquet when the bee flew out of it. Biles ran toward silver medalist and friend Larisa Iordache of Romania and laughed along with U.S. teammate Kyla Ross, who won bronze in the all-around.
"I tried not to freak out," the 17-year-old Biles said in a phone interview Wednesday with The Associated Press. "I don’t do bugs, so I kinda freaked out. It started chasing me around."
The video went viral, and Biles tweeted Friday to her 20,000 followers "more pics from bee attack, literally cant (sic) stop laughing."
— $im∞ne Biles (@Simone_Biles) October 10, 2014
Biles brought home four gold medals and one silver medal, the biggest haul by an American woman at worlds. The U.S. won the team event and Biles also earned gold on the balance beam and in the floor exercise on Sunday, the final day of the five-day competition.
Biles, who aims to make 2016 Rio Olympic team, is the first American woman to win two straight world all-around titles since Shannon Miller in 1993-94, and her six career gold medals at the worlds are the most by a U.S. woman, surpassing Miller’s five.
"I tried not to put pressure on myself," Biles said about defending her title. "I knew you have to pretend like it’s the first time and have fun with it."
Her reward for winning another world all-around title? Headphones and an ear piercing to go with the belly-button piercing she got after last year’s.
Biles just missed winning a fifth gold after performing two clean, high vault maneuvers. She outscored winner Hong Un Jon of North Korea in execution on both attempts, but yielded 0.800 points in difficulty on her second vault. She’s working on "upgrading to a Cheng, a 1 1/2 forward twisting vault."
The U.S. brought a young team to China — only Biles and 2012 Olympic champion Ross had competed at worlds before, and they were joined by MyKayla Skinner, Alyssa Baumann, Madison Kocian and Ashton Locklear.
In the 2012 London Olympics, Gabby Douglas was among the newcomers who emerged for the U.S. and helped win its second team title. She also won the Olympic all-around title.
However, none of the four U.S. gymnasts who’ve won Olympic gold in the all-around competition — Mary Lou Retton (1984 Los Angeles), Carly Patterson (2004 Athens), Nastia Liukin (2008 Beijing) and Douglas (2012 London) — took the top spot at worlds. Biles is looking to break that trend.
She trains 30 hours a week with coach Aimee Boorman. Simone’s grandparents, who adopted Simone and younger sister Adria, are building a gymnastics training center in their hometown of Spring, Texas, which will be completed in June.
Nellie and Ronald Biles attended worlds in China along with Adria, while Simone said her brothers Adam and Ron "woke up to watch the live feed. They’ve been my No. 1 supporters and always come to my meets."
Biles started gymnastics at age 6 after a day care field trip introduced her to the sport. The gymnastics facility sent a letter home, asking if she’d like to sign up for tumbling/cheerleading or gymnastics.
"She was a bouncy thing — all jumpy, bouncy and leaping," said Ronald Biles, a 21-year retired Air Force veteran who also worked for the Federal Aviation Administration. "My wife took it as a sign to save the furniture. She advanced rather rapidly, and we’re very happy and proud of her."
The teenager has a tumbling move named after her, "The Bile," which involves a fancy flip during her floor exercise routine.
"Most of our fans don’t get to interact with us or know our personalities except through social media," Biles said. "The floor exercise is a way to express your personality."
Simone and her family are in New York for the Women’s Sports Foundation’s annual awards dinner on Wednesday night, where she is a nominee for sportswoman of the year. Her next big meet is the American Cup in March in Arlington, Texas, at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium.
So how does she plan to stay sharp for Rio in two years, when she’ll be 19?
"Stay healthy, have fun with it and embrace all the moments," Biles said. "Because anything can happen."