Simone Biles is Just Getting Started

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Simone Biles had literally the best week ever.

The 17-year-old from Spring, Texas, won her second straight world all-around title (the second U.S. woman to do so, after Shannon Miller first accomplished it exactly twenty years earlier in 1993 and 1994), helped her team to the gold medal the day before, won three individual event medals (silver on vault, gold on beam and floor), tied Ludmilla Tourischeva for the most gold medals in a single World Championships (four – the most available to an athlete is six), has now earned nine World medals in just two years (the U.S. record is held by Alicia Sacramone, who earned ten over a seven year period), and was named the Women’s Sports Foundation’s 2014 Individual Sportswoman of the Year at the organization’s Salute to Women in Sports Gala in New York City.

Phew.

The award itself was for last year’s achievements, as in 2013 the first-year senior won both the U.S. national and world all-around titles in addition to medals on vault, beam, and floor at the world championships in Antwerp, Belgium.

Biles made her international debut just six months prior to 2013 worlds, winning the silver medal at the American Cup in Worcester, Mass. Her only other international experience before being sent off to Antwerp as the biggest medal hope was the Jesolo meet (where she earned every gold but bars) followed by a friendly competition in Germany, where she placed second all-around.

If she retired today, Biles would go down as one of the most successful U.S. gymnasts of all time, but don’t worry, that’s not happening anytime soon. In fact, Biles is just getting started.

“I am going back to full time training,” Biles said during a phone conference with the press while in New York City on Thursday afternoon when asked if she would enjoy time off from the gym. “We’re going to take it a little easier [during the upcoming off-season] and take some time to learn a couple of new skills. On vault, Martha [Karolyi, national team coordinator] talked about wanting to work the triple full because my 2.5 is pretty good and consistent. I want to upgrade my second vault to a Cheng. On bars, I want to get some skills back, and then I want to practice a layout double double on floor.”

Her sky high difficulty makes her one of the most competitive gymnasts in the world, but what she’s planning could make her untouchable.

Despite her success this year, she doesn’t seem fully satisfied with how she did. After the vault final, she said she wished she could have performed well enough to earn gold (even though she finished less than a tenth behind leader Hong Un Jong of North Korea despite Hong’s eight-tenths head start due to higher difficulty). She also seemed annoyed about her shakiness on beam.

“I was super frustrated because I’d attack my sets in the training halls but I’d wobble in competition,” she noted. “In event finals, I just went in to attack it the way I did in training and it felt so good to finally hit it.”

That’s the thing about Biles – she’s so talented, she’s on top of the world, but she still has room for improvement and she knows it. Four golds and one silver? Not good enough, not when she could have had five golds. Contribute the highest beam score during the team final? Eh, it could have been even higher.

Even though she’s the best of the best, she’s not content to settle, and understands that this isn’t her peak. She has execution to polish, difficulty to add, her already rock solid mental game to tighten – a good gymnast is satisfied with everything she’s done, but a superstar knows the bar can always be raised higher, and even with all she’s accomplished, she knows there is still tremendous potential to untap.

With everything that’s happened thus far, though, nothing has really gotten to her head. She thanked her team (whom she called her sisters) for their terrific work in Nanning and credited her success to her parents and coach Aimee Boorman for getting her through the rocky beginnings of this year, when she changed gyms and struggled with a shoulder injury, causing fans to doubt whether she’d be as strong in 2014 as she was a year earlier.

“Success comes from your support, and I have a very strong support system thanks to my parents and my coaches,” Biles told the press. “I think that’s helped along the way with me not getting distracted with all the changes and everything. They helped me realize that it [wasn’t] over.”

Biles also said her parents have been great at handling the business side of her career, including the difficult choice between competing at the collegiate level or “going pro,” which would allow her to earn money from endorsements but render her ineligible for NCAA competition.

“My mind is set on college so that’s what I’m focusing on,” Biles, who verbally committed to UCLA in July, asserted. “I’m not so sure about going pro. We’ve talked about it, but my parents aren’t really pushing me toward it.”

The final decision likely won’t come until it gets closer to 2016. Biles and her support system have made nothing but smart decisions from the start of her elite career, and no doubt understand how detrimental turning pro too early can be.

For now, though, she’ll take things one step at a time. She wants to win big at next year’s world championships in Glasgow, Scotland, and then it will be time to focus on the 2016 Olympic Games.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

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