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Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Sidwell Friends School's Student Newspaper Since 1974


Simone Biles Has a Stellar Return to the 2023 World Championships

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After a two-year mental health break, Simone Biles returned to compete at the 2023 Gymnastics World Championships and won four medals. Photo: Getty Images.

On Sept. 30, 2023, Simone Biles competed in the 2023 World Championships in Belgium, marking her return to international gymnastics after her withdrawal from the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020. At this competition, Biles won gold in the individual all-around women, floor exercises and balance beam. Biles also claimed a bronze medal in vault. Due in large part to Simone Biles’ performance, Team USA also won a gold medal in the overall competition. 

During the World Championships, Simone Biles made history on Oct. 2 by becoming the first woman to land the Yurchenko double pike vault at an international competition. The Yurchenko double pike consists of a round-off onto the spring board and a back handspring onto the vault (this combination is known as the Yurchenko), and then two flips in a pike position (hence the term double pike). The reason this is so difficult to complete on the vault is because it is hard to generate enough power on the vault to do a double flip. 

Biles is the first ever woman to land this skill, which means it will be named after her, as per gymnastics tradition. The Yurchenko double pike will be considered the Biles II because another vault already is known as the Biles. The Biles II will be added to the five other skills already named after her. 

Biles’ return to international competition is significant because in 2021, Simone Biles shocked the world when she opted out of the USA team final in the Tokyo Olympics. On CNN, Biles claimed that she withdrew because of a condition commonly referred to as “the twisties,” which is when gymnasts lose track of their position while twisting in midair. While Biles received support from fellow gymnasts and mental health advocates, she also had to endure a lot of backlash. 

However, Biles seems to have worked past this mental block, as demonstrated by her near-perfect performance in the 2023 World Championships. 

At only 26 years old, Simone Biles is widely considered to be the greatest female gymnast of all time. Biles began competing in international gymnastics in 2013, where she won two gold medals, one silver medal and one bronze medal at her first World Championship. Then, in 2016, Biles further entered the global spotlight when she dominated the Rio Olympics. 

Previously, Gabby Douglas was widely considered the greatest female gymnast of all time after earning two gold medals at the 2012 Olympics. Although Douglas rose to prominence first, Biles quickly surpassed her in terms of accolades. Biles became the most medalled gymnast at the World Championships in 2019. She also currently has seven medals in the Olympics despite only having competed in two, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

In addition to Biles’ dominance at the 2023 World Championships, the U.S. team as a whole also won their seventh straight gold medal at Worlds. Although Simone’s gold medal on the floor heavily contributed to the win, there were other factors that pushed the team over the top. 

Simone’s teammate Shi Jones won a bronze medal on the uneven bars. This is Jones’ sixth medal of her career and this medal doubled her career count on the uneven bars. 

There have been a couple of differences to the gymnastics world in the past few years. Firstly, the US team has gotten much more diverse. This year, five out of six members on the women’s team were women of color. Gymnastics traditionally has been a predominantly white sport, but now two of the most celebrated women gymnasts, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas, are Black. 

There have also been new sponsorship rules which opens a doorway for NCAA elite gymnasts to profit off their name and likeness. Originally, gymnasts would sign contracts for sponsors around the age of 14 which would prohibit them to accept any college offers or scholarships. 

Betty Okino, a world class gymnast who was at her prime around 1992, said to NPR that “I always think about if I went to Stanford.” She goes on to explain that in 1994, she signed to compete with the university but later backed out. “Back then, there were not NIL deals, so I felt as if I had to choose.” Okino had ended up signing with Reebook, denying the chance to play with Stanford. She also voiced on NPR that there was an unsaid stigma in her era of women’s gymnastics that if you competed in college gymnastics, you were no longer a “top-level athlete.” Today teams include college gymnasts; for example, in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, four out of six women on the team were college competing gymnasts.

In conclusion, Simone Biles and the US team rallied to win their seventh straight gold medal at the World Championships, making history. The 2024 Paris Olympics are quickly approaching, and many people on this world’s team will be competing in the upcoming olympics. Simone Biles will be 27 if she competes in 2024. This is considered old for womens gymnastics, where athletes start competing as young as 16. 

However, Biles appeared on the Today Show on Oct. 19 and revealed that she has gained new perspective, and when asked about her plans for 2024 she said that “[g]ymnastics is just something I get to come in and have the privilege of doing…I don’t feel like it’s the end all be all anymore, as before I kind of felt like that.” She ended by saying how good it feels that “I get to go home to my husband, to my dogs, to my house and all of the things.”

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