FORT WORTH, Texas — It’s easy to get complacent about the greatness of Simone Biles.
You didn’t need to be a gymnastics fan to know before the meet even started that she would win the U.S. championships– for a record seventh time, mind you. The Olympic trials are still three weeks away, and she can go ahead and buy her plane ticket for Tokyo now because, well, duh.
She is so much better than everyone else, be it here in the United States or abroad, that other gymnasts talk without a hint of resentment about competing in the “non-Simone division.” She finished a whopping 4.7 points ahead of Sunisa Lee on Sunday night – think Alabama and those non-conference opponents and you get the idea – and posted the highest scores on vault, balance beam and floor exercise.
On uneven bars, her “worst” event, she had the third-highest score.
“That was definitely the goal coming into this weekend’s events was to try to hit 60. So I’m really proud of myself for doing that,” Biles said, referring to her score of 60.10 in Sunday night’s competition. “I still had some mistakes and things that we need to clean up, but all is well and I’m not mad about it.”
But what Biles is doing is so special, so otherworldly, that we will never see the likes of her again. Or, if we do, it will be many, many, many years.
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Imagine if, at the height of their careers, Tiger Woods or Serena Williams won every major. Not one or two. Every single one. For multiple years in a row. As well as every other big tournament they entered. That’s what Biles is doing. She hasn’t lost an all-around competition since 2013. She and Japan’s Kohei Uchimura are the only two gymnasts to win every major international all-around title for an entire Olympic cycle, and Biles would have done it a second time this quadrennium if not for taking a year off after winning all of the things in the leadup to the Rio Games.
It’s not only that Biles wins, though. It’s that she makes skills that would astound NASA physicists look manageable. Maybe not for us mere mortals. But other gymnasts, surely.
“I talk about this with my husband all the time because every time she does something, he’s like, `Well, can’t you do that?’ No, that’s fricking hard what she’s doing,” MyKayla Skinner said last week. “I’ve done crazy skills myself … but never realistically, ‘Oh yeah, I could do this on a hard surface, competition floor.’
“Simone is definitely a rare gymnast. I don’t really think we’ll ever see another gymnast like her,” Skinner added. “It’s just really cool to be able to be in this moment with her.”
Biles knows she is the greatest gymnast the sport has ever seen – have you not seen the rhinestone goat on her leotards? – but she already can’t keep track of how many medals and titles she has. So she focuses instead on testing her own limits, wanting to see what she can coax her body – and mind – into doing.
Biles didn’t do either of her signature vaults Sunday, opting instead for “easier” ones that, until just a few years ago, were so difficult only a few women even tried them.
A balance beam is a mere 4 inches wide, and is 4 feet off the ground. Just walking across it would cause most people to break out in a cold sweat. Yet Biles moved through her routine with polished efficiency, flowing from one acrobatic skill into another as if to say, “What? This is supposed to be hard?”
On the tumbling passes on floor that now bear her name, she soars so high that fans in the lower rows need to look up to watch her. Yet her technique is perfect, honed by years of hard work and precise repetitions.
She did go out of bounds on one of her passes, the result of having too much power.
“It’s so crazy because, in training, I never go out of bounds and I never have this much power,” Biles said. “But with adrenaline, that’s where it comes from. We’ll just have to focus on working with that.”
Biles has made the impossible look attainable, and we have gotten spoiled watching her do it. The records, the titles – they all tend to blend after a while. But she is doing things no one has done before, or will do again, and we should never forget that.
There are many athletes who are deserving of the title of GOAT, the Greatest Of All Time. By now, Biles has proven that she is most certainly one of them.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.