Gymnast Simone Biles redefines limits of human athleticism
Simone Biles competes in the beam during the senior women's competition at the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Stunning performances this weekend from American gymnast Simone Biles left judges and audiences in awe, and with high hopes for more at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Biles won her sixth national title after she left the competition behind with a "triple-double" in her floor routine that has never been done before, and a "double-double" beam dismount that was also a first.
"No question, she’s clearly established herself as one of the top gymnasts in history and she’s a year out from the next Olympics," said Greg Wells, Exercise Scientist with the University of Toronto. "It’s just beautiful to watch."
Biles, a five-time Olympic medalist and 14-time world champion, spun three times while flipping twice in her floor routine, and accomplished two full flips in one axis, while making two full rotations in another axis, in a perfect balance beam dismount.
The very narrow balance beam - only a few inches wide - can be a particular challenge since the beam has no bounce and there is a significant risk of injury if the beam is missed, Wells explained on CTV News Channel.
"It’s an incredible accomplishment that really shows how hard she's been working to build her skills over the last few years, even since the last Olympics," said Wells.
Biles' success was due to a combination of factors, said Wells: She has the speed, explosiveness, and the muscle to propel herself into the air while spinning in two different axes, making herself as compact as possible to spin as fast as she can. Her body’s proprioception means she is constantly aware of where she is in space.
While there are some genetic components to Biles’ success, such as muscle fibre type and trainability, Wells said Biles' success also comes down to how she leverages those genetics. That's accomplished through training, and he believes Simone has not even reached her full potential.
"I think some amazing things are in store for Simone, and it’s going to be great to watch her leading into what should be an incredible OIympics for her a year from now."