She insists she is no superstar, but Simone Biles can now be considered amongst the greatest gymnasts ever after on Sunday becoming the all-time record holder for most medals won at world championships.
Biles won the beam and floor finals to earn the 24th and 25th worlds medal of her career, bettering the previous record of 23 set by Belarus male gymnast Vitaly Scherbo in the 1990s.
Having also won the all-around, team and vault finals in Stuttgart, Biles extended her own record to 19 gold medals in what is likely to be her last worlds.
She is “99 percent” sure she will not be at the 2021 world gymnastics championships in Copenhagen.
Under a year from the Tokyo Olympics, where she hopes to retain the four golds – in the team, all-around, vault and floor events – won at the 2016 Rio de Janiero Games, Biles has dazzled this week.
“I’m proud of all my performances here, I have been consistent, which was my goal for these championships and the year,” she told reporters.
In Tokyo, Biles seems destined to better the five Olympic gold medals legendary Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci won at the 1976 and 1980 games.
Behind the scenes, Biles endured personal hardship in recent months.
She broke down in tears after a training session in August, slamming USA gymnastics for failing to protect her and other American female gymnasts from disgraced former US team doctor Larry Nassar.
In January 2018, Biles admitted to being among the victims of Nassar, who was jailed for sexually abusing hundreds of girls and women.
“You had one job. You literally had one job and you couldn’t protect us,” she said angrily, her words aimed at US Gymnastics officials.
Then, at the end of August, her brother was arrested and charged with a shooting which left three people dead last December.
Her slight 1.45m frame has shouldered adversity to reach the pinnacle of gymnastics.
Born in Ohio in March 1997, Biles was adopted and raised by her grandparents at the age of three, along with her younger sister, while her mother battled drug and alcohol addictions.
“When I was younger I thought every kid was adopted,” Biles told Time magazine interview before her Rio 2016 success. “I didn’t understand why people made it such a big deal.”
Her gymnastics talent was identified at an early age, when she was encouraged to pursue the sport after impressing instructors during a day-care field trip as a six-year-old.
Her breakthrough on the global stage came at the 2013 world championships in Antwerp, winning the floor and all-around titles, which she retained in Nanning the following year as part of a four-gold haul.
Own biggest critic
Four more golds – in the team, all-around, beam and floor events – followed at the 2015 worlds in Glasgow.
After her incredible Olympic success in Rio, Biles skipped competition in 2017 to co-write her autobiography “Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance”.
“I want people to reach for their dreams,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
She returned with a bang in 2018, sweeping another quartet of world golds in the team, all-round, vault and floor events in Doha.
Biles’ success is forged by a relentless pursuit of excellence, setting standards that she acknowledges may be impossible to achieve and she is her own “biggest critic”, by her own admission.
“I look back at videos and wonder how I did that,” she said after winning the all-round title for the fifth time last Thursday.
“I sometimes wish I could have an out-of-body experience to witness it.”
Biles has never accepted she is to gymnastics what Michael Phelps is to swimming or Usain Bolt is to athletics.
“I feel like if I were to label myself as a superstar, it would bring more expectations on me.”
However, her Stuttgart exploits means there is now no denying her status amongst the greatest gymnasts of all time.