Simone Biles - history maker, best gymnast of all time, risk taker. The global star of the sport pulled off a move so dangerous and tricky at the weekend that officials will not even score it particularly high, presumably to discourage less able rivals to try it.
The American delivered the Yurchenko double vault at the US Classic on Saturday, after an 18 month absence from competition. She more than made up for the wait, with a move which requires a double rotation - she achieved it so well, that actually she may have over-rotated (if you are picking holes).
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But the difficulty score of 6.6 has been heavily criticised. For context, she can achieve the same mark by performing moves which are hard - but not nearly as tricky as this one.
In effect, Biles is probably being punished for simply being too good - and she doubts the International Gymnastics Federation will change their approach. When asked why she is continuing to try vaults like Saturday’s, she said “because I can.” She wants to try new things and test the limits, but by scoring higher, she will either run away with the competition, or potentially tempt others who are not quite as good as her to try the same move - which could risk serious injury.
Biles has several moves named after her already but she knows that failure to land this one in competition in the future could lead to the end of her career. This skill is so dangerous that the margin for error is miniscule. It requires every detail to be completely out of control.
Britain’s double Olympic champion Max Whitlock is in awe of Biles, and told Eurosport what she is doing in the sport is unrivalled.
“She’s just incredible,” he said.
There’s no doubt she’s one of the best gymnasts [who's] ever lived, the margin she’s ahead by is amazing but what’s even more impressive is that she’s still pushing the boundaries when she doesn’t need to. That’s what makes a true champion.
“She’s pulling out new moves which have never been done by a female gymnast before. She’s an inspiration, for me but to every gymnast around the world and she’s an amazing role model as well."
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Biles is on course to be one of the biggest stars of Tokyo 2020 and is looked up to by people all over the world. There are parallels with Whitlock, whose profile has rocketed since becoming Britain’s first Olympic gymnastics champion at Rio 2016, and he says it is important for athletes like them to do as much as they can to grow the sport.
“People like Simone are doing incredible jobs to inspire and it’s a role I personally really try to take on as well because I really want to see more gymnasts, I want to see more children take up the sport.
“It teaches them so much and I truly believe it’s one of the best starting sports. I try to do what I can to encourage it, me and my wife run our own gymnastics club so it’s not even about inspiring it’s also making it possible, hopefully it can open so many doors for them.”
Biles will continue to test the limits and push the boundaries - at the moment, no-one can get close to her.
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