The Simone Show, Favorite Skills, + Tons of Quotes

Photo by Lloyd Smith

Risk Versus Reward: The Simone Show

“I still get very frustrated because I know how good I am and how well I can do.” –Simone Biles

On Friday night, Simone Biles (World Champions Centre)—the reigning Olympic and World Champion who is headed for her sixth U.S. All-around title—was not perfect. Yes, she’s still in first with a 1.75-point lead. Yes, she made history. But after a sub-par bars routine and putting her hands down on her triple-double on floor, she was far from happy. Although she hit the double-double dismount off beam, she made slight adjustments on the majority of her skills during the routine—some noticeable by the crowd, others just way below her own standards. And she wasn’t afraid to say so. Of her entire competition she said, “I just want to throw it in the trash and start over.”

This is the Simone we love. The Simone we live for. The one who will, we predict, compete lights out and better than ever on Sunday night.

Coaches Laurent and Cecile Landi are blessed with the opportunity to craft and mold perhaps the best athlete of all time. At her Texas gym, daily practices are fine-tuned, routines are perfected, and, yes, new skills are tried and tested for consistency, balance, safety—therein, the risk versus the reward.

The buzz within the gymnastics community has been high this week in excitement and anticipation of being able to witness the first time Biles attempted the triple-twisting double back on floor in competition and see the double-twisting double back off balance beam, which looks more like something that most gymnasts cannot even perform on a Tumbl Trak. Never was there talk of it being scary, underrotated, or inconsistent. In fact, on the hard floor this week on podium, she did not miss one.

Laurent Landi was proud of her tonight; relieved and excited at the same time.

“It is the only one she screwed up this whole week,” stated Landi. “Somehow a little bit surprised, but, I mean, it is a skill that has never been done by a woman gymnast, and even men, there [are] only two guys that have ever competed this. So, that is a harder skill than a triple back on the floor.”

In response to how it feels as her coach to [watch her] perform two history-making skills in the course of one night of competition, Landi said, “It feels good. I mean, we are pushing the boundaries of gymnastics, and pushing her own limitations, and she handles it pretty well.”

And so, the question that many ask, is “How much is too much?” As matting gets more technical to try to counter forces created by these gravity-defying athletes, the desire to utilize bouncier floors and better vaults results in the creation of new skills. More twisting and flipping, needing more height and calculated room for minimal error, leads to increased risk.

“It can become dangerous, but we are right at the limit,” Landi explained. “So, we need to come down, and to focus on what she can and can’t do.” He is, however, understanding of the mental side of coaching regarding building confidence with new skills and performance. Team Simone truly does have choices: to revel in the fact that her triple-double on floor was performed—albeit not to perfection—on Friday night and choose to water down Sunday’s routine, or, to turn her incredibly apparent frustration into redemption.

“We will redo this floor routine, to redeem herself for her. We will see how she is tomorrow. She might be sore, she might be tired, but right now the plan is to do this floor routine again, and maybe just do a full-in dismount for beam.”

Biles understands completely her internal drive for excellence, but is aware of being safe and being smart about both her training and competing. “Well, I feel like on beam, I was really excited when I landed it, and made it, so I feel like the risk versus reward is very high!”

When asked about bars, she was quick to respond that this is an event not worth her rolling the dice for a greater payout. The other three events, however, she is ready for. “I’m still really upset about floor, but I did end on a good note,” Biles stated. “So, that makes me happy.”

At times there are 2-3 whole points that separate Biles from the rest of the women’s field, and yet, she still holds herself to a standard of the best Biles she can be. It is not by inches or miles she wants to remain on top. It is inches away from her best where she wants to push boundaries. Sailing through her 2016 Rio Olympic win did not allow her to stop trying and coast when she absolutely could have. She is truly the one who drives herself both in her gym in Texas and wherever the competition circuit takes her.

“Because before I feel like I would fall, and, you know, ‘it’s okay’, but now, even though I am still on top, and if I fall, I just get really frustrated with myself, because I train better that I compete sometimes, and you know, it’s hard to do the exact same thing in training, but we try to replicate it in competition,” Biles explained.

“I still get very frustrated because I know how good I am and how well I can do. So, I just want to do the best routine for the audience and for myself out here.”

 

NOTES:

Senior Women:

With the Simone history-making storylines in the spotlight and Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker, and Grace McCallum all making mistakes, Sunisa Lee quietly earned second place with a consistent competition and stellar bar routine, while Jade Carey calmly and confidently did her job to finish third after the first night of competition.

Biles earned a 58.650 for the all-around, as well as the top score for three of the four events: vault, 15.400 (15.300/15.500); balance beam, 14.950; and floor exercise, 14.350. Lee came in at 56.900, and two-time World silver medalist Carey at 56.100. McCusker finished fourth with a  55.700, while Leanne Wong and Trinity Thomas tied for fifth at 55.400.

Hurd, McCusker and McCallum will all certainly be looking for redemption, which should create an incredible buzz for the competition Sunday night.

 

Junior Women

For the juniors, Konnor McClain tallied at 56.500 to lead the midpoint all-around rankings. Olivia Greaves was on her heels at 56.000, followed by Kayla DiCello. The top gymnasts for each of the events were: DiCello, vault,14.700, and floor exercise, 13.700; Greaves, uneven bars, 14.450; and McClain, balance beam, 14.300.

Overall, the juniors had a steady and solid competition.

 

Mad Skills We Loved!

JUNIORS:

  • eMjae Frazier (Parkettes – JR) – Double layout first pass
  • Levi Jung-Ruivivar (Paramount Elite – JR) – Effortless double-twisting yurchenko
  • Lilly Lippeatt (Cincinnati Gymnastics – JR) – Expressive, fun and dynamic floor routine with a piked full-in opening pass
  • Ciena Alipio (West Valley – JR) – Beam: aerial, layout, layout flight series
  • Karis German (World Champions – JR) – huge double-twisting yurchenko that could easily be transitioned to an Amanar.
  • Olivia Greaves (MG Elite – JR ) – Exquisite floor routine. The dance and personality, execution of leaps, and entertainment were a breath of fresh air. Kudos to MG Elite for keeping the art of choreography alive.

SENIORS:

  • Jade Carey (Arizona Sunrays – SR) – Opening layout double-double, followed by a laid out full-out, tucked double-double.
  • Simone Biles (World Champions – SR) – Double-twisting yurchenko followed by her usual drop-out of-the-sky Amanar. On beam, her tucked double-double dismount, and on floor, the first-ever triple-twisting double tuck for her opening pass (though short and hopped-forward, still impressive).

 

Quotes:

Morgan Hurd on her goals for Sunday: “I’m pretty sure I’m going to go out and do some angry tumbling.”

Jordan Chiles on her competition overall: “My night went amazing, I felt so confident in myself. I’m just proud of myself right now. Considering I had some changes during the year and in my gymnastics, it went pretty well.”

Jordan Chiles on training with Simone: “Having her as a teammate is, I think, the coolest thing ever. But besides the fact that she is Simone Biles, she is also my friend so having her in my rotation and in the gym … we do motivate each other.”

Aleah Finnegan on the support of her family and competing in front of a home crowd: “My family is definitely my biggest support right now and they’re there for me every step of the way. It was really fun tonight competing, especially since I could hear some of my teammates in the crowd.”

Kara Eaker on competing with her GAGE teammates: “It’s so much fun being out there with all of my teammates. We’re very supportive of each other.”

Kara Eaker on becoming known as an all-around gymnast: “I’ve always trained to be an all-around gymnast; I’ve never tried to be a specialist on anything and being in the all-around is the best way to help the team, so it’s really exciting … I had mistakes tonight, but they are a learning experience and will make me better, so I’m excited to compete Sunday.”

Konnor McClain on her role models in the sport: “I definitely look up to all of the seniors … Suni (Sunisa Lee), she’s really supportive of all of the juniors.”