PITTSBURGH — Simone Biles hopped off the beam, cut her longtime coach Aimee Boorman a knowing look and went in for a relieved hug.
Turns out nobody’s perfect, not even the best gymnast on the planet. Guess Biles will have to settle for being as close as the sport gets at the moment.
The bubbly 17-year-old easily captured her second straight U.S. women’s gymnastics national title on Saturday night to set the stage for an even bigger title defense this fall.
Biles posted a two-day total of 122.550, more than four points clear of Kyla Ross. She did it despite a late stumble on beam that never threatened her grip on the top of the podium but left her with something to work on heading into the world championships in China in six weeks.
“I’ll think over and over again about beam,” Biles said.
The rest of the world has a bigger problem: figuring out how to close the seemingly widening gap betweenBiles and everyone else.
“She was outstanding,” U.S. women’s team coordinator Martha Karolyi said. “Nothing against these guys but (she is) definitely at world level. She throws big skills with big easy and that’s a fantastic quality.”
One Biles has in abundance.
She began the night with a massive 3.15-point advantage over the small field and poured it on. Biles collected the highest scores on floor exercise and vault and tied for the second-highest on balance beam — even with the fall — during a two-day meet that felt more like a coronation.
Not that Biles is buying into the hype. Pressed on if her margin of victory leaves little doubt about her place atop the pyramid and she shrugged her shoulders.
“I would never say that about myself,” she said. “But I guess I’m pretty good.”
There’s no guessing about it.
Ross, the lone member of the 2012 gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team currently in competition, recovered from a tough first day to finish runner-up to Biles for the second straight year. A little pep talk from Karolyi helped. They decided to adjust Ross’ floor exercise a bit, hoping a slightly easier routine would lead to significantly better results.
Done and done. Ross’ all-around score of 60.350 on Saturday was second only to the 60.750 put up by Biles.
“Martha just wanted me to change my mental perspective after the meet and really turn the page,” Ross said. “I think it definitely helped coming out today and just made me more confident.”
Maggie Nichols was third, followed by Alyssa Baumann and MyKayla Skinner.
Karolyi will have some interesting decisions to make over the next month as she tries to fill out the five-woman roster to send to China for worlds. Figuring out what to do about Biles won’t be one of them.
The chatty, charismatic teenager from Spring, Texas, has eagerly accepted the mantle as the next star in a line of medal-hogging Americans that stretches back a decade, from Olympic champions Carly Patterson to Nastia Liukin to Gabby Douglas.
Two long years remain until Biles can take her aggressively simple gymnastics to her sport’s biggest stage.
Staying at the top for another 24 months in a discipline where the end of your prime is one misstep away will be difficult. Only one competitor at the 2010 US championships made it to the London Olympics.
Yet there is an ease to the way Biles performs that has even those who will try to track her down by 2016 take notice.
Three-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, in the beginning stages of a comeback, called Biles “better than amazing” hours before Biles blew away the field.
Biles wasn’t quite perfect as her dynamic set on Thursday. Then again, perfection was hardly required. She started Saturday night with a floor exercise that mixes an innocent smile and elegant dance moves with a series of all-business tumbling runs that resemble a string of small explosions.
She’s so dominant on vault she almost looks bored after she finishes her Amanar — which packs 2.5 twists inside a split second and serves as the current dividing line between good and great in the event.
By the time she landed her lead had grown to more than five points, the equivalent of a five-touchdown lead heading into the fourth quarter.
There would be no miracle comeback by Ross or anyone else.
Then again, after seven near flawless routines Biles finally slipped. She hopped off halfway through her beam set, drawing an “ooh” from the crowd and a somewhat sheepish grin from herself.
The miscue simply gives Biles and Boorman something stew on as Biles attempts to become the first gymnast since Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina in 2001 and 2003 to win consecutive world all-around championships.