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Simone Biles becomes the most decorated gymnast in history

Simone Biles competes on the beam during the women's all-round final at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, on Friday.
Geert vanden Wijngaert
/
AP
Simone Biles competes on the beam during the women's all-round final at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, on Friday.

ANTWERP, Belgium — After a two-year absence and less than three months into her return to competition, Simone Biles is back at the top of world gymnastics once again.

The American superstar won the individual all-around title at the world championships for the sixth time on Friday to become the most decorated gymnast in history.

Ten years after she won her first in the same Belgian city as a 16-year-old, Biles scored 58.399 points across the balance beam, floor, vault and uneven bars to beat Rebeca Andrade, the Brazilian defending champion, by 1.633 points.

Biles' U.S. teammate Shilese Jones took the bronze medal, with 56.332 points.

It was Biles' 27th world championship medal — and 21st gold. It came two days after the four-time Olympic gold medalist led the U.S women to a record seventh straight win in the team event.

Biles now has 34 medals across the world championships and Olympics, making her the most decorated gymnast ever — male or female — at the sport's two signature events ahead of the retired Vitaly Scherbo.

Biles' only blip came right at the end, as she was about to wrap up her floor routine. After a near-flawless display, she tripped near the end of her routine as she was about to enter a sequence of leaps. But she recovered in style, and it didn't cost her enough of a points deduction to rob her of the gold.

"I know my parents had a heart attack," Biles told her coach.

With the Olympics Games in less than a year in Paris, Biles is back to her very best. And despite the fierce competition from Andrade and Jones, she remains a cut above the rest — a full decade after she started her reign.

Biles has flown high since returning from a two-year break

Biles has been dominant ever since returning following a two-year break after her appearance in the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics was plagued by a bout with a mental block known as " the twisties." She was expected to repeat as individual all-around champion in Tokyo but removed herself from competition to focus on her mental well-being.

After announcing her return, she impressed at the U.S. Classic in early August then added her eighth national title a few weeks later. She is competing at her first world championships since 2019 this week.

Biles received the loudest round of applause during the athlete presentation, with Andrade's name also welcomed by loud cheers.

Biles, Jones and Andrade competed in the same rotation, kicking off their contest at vault. Jones got off a solid start, nailing a double-twisting Yurchenko with a small hop that earned her 14.233 points.

In her blue leotard, Biles then opted for a Cheng vault — not the more difficult Yurchenko Double Pike she pioneered during the team qualifying — and was nearly perfect in her execution, getting 15.100 points. Andrade, the defending champion, also attempted a Cheng but her execution was not as good as Biles' and she had to be content with 14.700.

Even at her weakest apparatus, the uneven bars, Biles still managed a 14.333 that put her in the lead ahead of Andrade, who after a long wait produced a superb bar routine and reduced the gap to her American rival to just 0.233 points before they moved to the balance beam.

Biles looked a bit shaky as she mounted the beam, but the rest of her routine was excellent. Jones delivered a great display to move to second place overall and was warmly hugged by Biles after her effort.

Andrade bounced out of bounds seconds before she wrapped up her floor routine, a fluffed last step that marred an otherwise brilliant display. The mistake cost her three tenths of a point, but not her silver medal.

Biles' competition continues this weekend with the women's vault and uneven bars finals on Saturday and the balance beam and floor exercise finals on Sunday.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press