“I look back at videos and wonder how I did that. I sometimes wish I could have an out-of-body experience to witness it.”— Simone Biles, world's most decorated gymnast
You know what’s cool? Being the most decorated athlete in the sport you compete. Simone Biles, in October 2019, became the all-time record holder for most medals won at world championships.
You know what’s cooler? To win some of those medals while performing moves that only she can perform at the biggest stage in the world; moves that now are named after her.
And Biles has not one, not two, not three, but four skills that will forever be associated with her.
Biles made history on her opening appearance at the 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart by landing a triple double skill on the floor which will be named “Biles II”. She then pulled off a double-twisting double tuck dismount off the beam which will be known simply as “The Biles” as her other two skills in floor exercise and vault, that already bear her name.
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The 23-year-old American now has a total of four skills in the gymnastics code of points that bear her name (eponymous skills). The spectacular “triple-double” (three twists with two flips) in the floor event and the incredible “double-double” (two twists, two flips) on the beam dismount in Stuttgart were the latest additions.
“I feel like putting my name on a skill is really rewarding, just because it’ll be in the code forever,” she said in Stuttgart.
Gymnasts earn the right to have a unique skill named after them after they submit it for evaluation and land the move successfully at a major competition like the World Championships or Olympics, according to the Guardian.
“It’s really cool to have something named after me and have it stay in the history. But it’s also kinda weird. Because every time I do it I say ‘Oh, I am going to do the double layout half out’ but I am not going to say ‘I am going to do The Biles’. That’s too weird for me,” she said in 2015 about her first unique skill in the floor exercise.
The Simone Biles journey
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. 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. 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 where she won four gold medals, Biles took a break in 2017. She returned with a bang in 2018, sweeping another quartet of world golds in the team, all-round, vault and floor events in Doha. And in Stuttgart, she became the most successful gymnast at the world championships, when 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.
The Eponymous skills
The world will have to wait to see her magic again at the Olympics, with the Games postponed to 2021 but in the meantime, we can celebrate her genius.
Here are the four skills in total that will forever be associated with Simone Biles: two on floor, a vault and the beam dismount.
- VAULT: The Biles - Yurchenko half on with two twists (Cheng plus a half twist).
- FLOOR EXERCISE: The Biles - Double layout half out. It is the move that Biles has been doing for the longest time, a move that had confounded physicists even (explained in the second video).
- FLOOR EXERCISE: Biles II - Triple double (three twists with two flips): Her “Biles II” came into being when she landed a triple-twisting double back on the floor during qualification for the team event at Stuttgart in October 2019. She first performed this at the national level in USA. The Telegraph explained just why what Biles did is incredible like this: A tucked double back flip with one full twist was done by a woman first in 1976 by Soviet gymnast Elena Mukhina. Ten years later, Romanian Daniela Silivas brought out the double-double, a tucked double back flip with two full twists. The Silivas is still one of the most difficult skills. And THIRTY ONE years later, a female gymnast decided to add a third twist to the tucked double back flip: Simone Biles.
- BALANCE BEAM: The Biles - A double-double dismount. It is the final part of her balance beam routine. Biles incredibly dismounted at the US Nationals with two flips and two twists. The international governing body gave it a difficulty rating that did not satisfy Biles; FIG argued that the move was too risky and the ‘H’ rating was given so that other, less-skilled gymnasts won’t be tempted to attempt it.
Here are the last two moves as a series of images:
Here are a couple of other videos explaining the eponymous skills of Simone Biles:
And when the Olympics is upon us, don’t be surprised if Biles pulls off another unprecedented routine.