In just six seconds, Simone Biles became the first woman to execute a Yurchenko double pike in an international competition. She had tried it in 2021, and rehearsed it for the Tokyo Games — where she bowed out due to a case of what is popularly known as “the twisties,” a dangerous loss of air awareness during a routine.
From now on, the element, unusual even among men, will be named after the American gymnast: Biles II. It was 10 years ago that a 16-year-old girl with braces won her first world championship. Now, Biles is a physical wonder, a talented gymnast who looks unstoppable. On Sunday, she placed first in the women’s all-around qualification at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp (Belgium) with 58.865 points. The United States finished in the lead with 171,395 points, followed by Great Britain (166,130) and Italy (162,230).
A crowd had gathered to watch the first part of the women’s qualifying round at the Antwerp Sportpaleis. Italy debuted with relaxed authority on the vault with two double-twist Yurkenchos by Alice D’Amato and Arinna Belardeli, while the Netherlands dominated the uneven bars with a varied routine by Naomi Visser, who scored 14.166. The wait was long for Kazakhstan’s Darya Yassinskaya: her music was not ready for her floor routine. A sympathetic audience cheered her on. Meanwhile, the Panamanian Helon Hillary delighted the audience on the vault and floor exercises by being the first gymnast, besides Biles herself, to execute an element bearing the American gymnast’s name: Biles I.
But the roar from the crowd came when the U.S. team, including Biles, showed up triumphantly. The uneven bars seemed to welcome the American athlete. Without errors, she demonstrated precision on her weakest apparatus with a 14.4 score. But her partner Shilese Jones was unforgiving and took first place from her with a 14.833. On the balance beam, Biles had no rival, and she performed elegantly and with astonishing aplomb to spontaneous applause from the audience. Her 14.566 placed her comfortably first, while Skye Blakely fell off the apparatus while leaving the bar.
On the floor, Biles high-fived Jones before her routine. Luck was not needed in an event where she floated between acrobatics and made it seem easy to take first place with 14.633 points. But the icing on the cake was still missing. The most anticipated moment had arrived. Biles rehearsed the Yurchenko Double Pike, and the audience went crazy. Then she did it again, this time in competition, and made history. Due to the force of the jump, she was slightly propelled backwards. But no one cared, and she scored an outrageous 15.266.
The day ended with competitors from Great Britain, the Republic of Korea and South Africa. But Simone Biles was still the leader in three of the four pieces of apparatus and in the all-around event. Biles is back. And not just to compete and win. Also to impress.
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