Photos by Grace Chiu
The U.S. Women’s team took the title tonight by 5.801, even with mistakes. This is their fifth team gold since 2011, and seventh overall, with 10 straight years in a row on the podium since 2001. And with that, it is clear the headline for the Tokyo Olympics is not if the U.S. women will dominate there, but by how much. Team Russia took silver and Italy delighted the entire arena by earning bronze. But it was Simone Biles who, once again, stole the show on the world stage.
Already heralded as GOAT, Biles won her 21st World medal and 26th total (combining Olympic and World Championships medals). And yet, even as the team competition comes to a close, Biles is far from finished. She added two namesake skills to the books at this competition—in addition to her previous two—and will compete in the all-around and all four event finals later this week, earning the chance to bring home more hardware and set a record of success (and medals) that may never be surpassed.
Her skills wow audiences, whether familiar with the sport or not—she’s been making headlines all week across the morning show circuit and the nightly news across networks. Her personality stands out as a combination of confident and sweet, funny, yet at times shy. She uses her voice as an advocate for adoption as well as coming out as a survivor of the Nassar scandal and an activist for women everywhere. And honestly, she hasn’t even tried to do more.
Why? Because she is in the gym nearly thirty hours each week. And when she isn’t, she is resting to train again, and trying to enjoy her life with her boyfriend, friends and family. She is human after all, something we often forget when we see her defy gravity with ease time and time again. Public figures within sports (and those outside of gymnastics) support, comment on social media, and are in awe of her athleticism and achievements, including the likes of tennis standout Serena Williams and basketball star LeBron James.
To give you an idea of how hard it is to be on the top of a sport for this long, not since Svetlana Khorkina (RUS) in 2003 have we seen a medal record like Biles’. Long-since retired, Vitaly Scherbo (who competed for the Soviet Union, the transitional Unified Team and Belarus from 1991-1996) raked in 23 total medals, 12 of which were gold. Japan’s Kohei Uchimura (missing from this year’s World Championships) has 21.
So, in the history of the sport, between the men and women, only four athletes have acquired more than 20. For sure, an small and incredible club to be part of.
Women’s gymnastics is often identified as a sport for the young. Biles is 22 this year, and is considered a veteran in our sport, even though history-making 44-year-old Oksana Chusovitina (UZB)—who has been in 7 Olympics and hopes for her eighth in 2020—continues to compete. (And speaking of more records in the fun fact department, just this week in Doha, as Biles and the U.S. Team were qualifying to the Tokyo Olympics, Allyson Felix surpassed Usain Bolt’s 13 World gold medals with her 14th. At nearly 34, and after having a child just under 11 months ago, Felix rose back to the top and set records.)
As the history books are written, Biles and her team were once again the best on this day in Stuttgart. No one was even close. Incredible in itself and with no signs of stopping. And even with all of the hardware, the records and the history-making, Biles herself perhaps said it best of the victory, “I never think of records. I just go out there and do what I came to do, which is compete for the country. Whatever the medal haul at the end of the day is… what it is.”
Chalking Up the Medal Count
- Worlds (2013, 14, 15, 18)
- 20 total medals
- Svetlana Khorkina (Russia) in 1994-2003 – 7 total championships, ties in total 20, but with 9/8/3
- Olympic Medals:
- 5 total (4 Gold and 1 bronze)
- One Olympics
- Holds the record for the most gold medals for any female gymnast within one Olympics
- 25 total World and Olympic
- 18 total Gold
Shannon Miller (USA)
- 7 total Olympic Medals
- 2,2,3 and 1992/1996
Alicia Sacramone (USA)
- 10 total World Medals
Larisa Latynina (USSR
- Most Olympic Medals ever by a female is 18 (9/5/4 across 3 Games) between 1956-64