FORT WORTH, Texas — It’s safe to say Simone Biles wasn’t scrolling Twitter mid-meet to check out the updated standings.
The reigning world and Olympic champion hasn’t lost an all-around competition in eight years, and she extended that streak in record fashion Sunday night. Her seventh title at the U.S. championships is the most for a woman and ties Alfred Jochim — who competed back in the days when gymnastics included rope climbing.
Biles finished a whopping 4.7 points ahead of Sunisa Lee, who also was second in 2019, the last time nationals were held. Or, as the gymnasts describe it, first in the non-Simone division. Biles had the top score in the two-day competition on vault, balance beam and floor exercise, and was third-best on her “worst” event, uneven bars.
Next up are the Olympic trials, which are June 24-27 in St. Louis. The top two scorers there – Biles and someone else – automatically earn spots on the Tokyo team, and a selection committee will choose the remaining two.
It’s easy to get complacent about Biles’ greatness. Imagine if, at the height of their careers, Tiger Woods or Serena Williams won every major. Not one or two. Every single one. For multiple years in a row. We’d come to expect it, not fully appreciating how lucky we were to witness something so special.
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So it is with Biles. She and Japan’s Kohei Uchimura are the only two gymnasts to win every major international all-around title for an entire Olympic cycle, and Biles would have done it a second time this quadrennium if not for taking a year off after winning all of the things in the leadup to the Rio Games.
It’s not only that Biles wins, though. It’s that she does it so easily. On vault, she didn’t do either of her signature vaults, opting instead for “easier” ones that, until just a few years ago, were so difficult only a few women even tried them.
Biles’ signature tumbling passes on floor exercise still draw oohs and aahs, mostly for the height she gets on them. But she does them with such ease, and with such perfect technique, that it’s easy to forget how unique they are or not appreciate how many years it took to master them.
A balance beam is a mere 4 inches wide, and is 4 feet off the ground. Just walking across it would cause most people to break out in a cold sweat. Yet Biles moves through her routine with polished efficiency, flowing from one acrobatic skill into another as if to say, “What? This is supposed to be hard?”
Biles knows she is the greatest gymnast the sport has ever seen – have you not seen the rhinestone goat on her leotards? – but she already can’t keep track of how many medals and titles she has. So she focuses instead on testing her own limits, wanting to see what she can coax her body – and mind – into doing.
Biles has made the impossible look attainable, and we have gotten spoiled watching her do it. The records, the titles – they all tend to blend after a while. But she is doing things no one has done before, or will do again, and we should never forget that.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.