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Simone Biles will go to a U.S. record 6th World Championships after 'nail-biting' win

Simone Biles continues to soar: 10 years after putting elite gymnastics on notice, she's now heading to her sixth World Championships. Biles is seen here during the floor routine at last month's U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
Loren Elliott
/
AFP via Getty Images
Simone Biles continues to soar: 10 years after putting elite gymnastics on notice, she's now heading to her sixth World Championships. Biles is seen here during the floor routine at last month's U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

It's 2013 all over again for Simone Biles. One month after winning her record eighth U.S. Championship, Biles punched her ticket to the upcoming World Championships by posting the top all-around score at a U.S. qualifying competition.

"Going back to where it all began!" USA Gymnastics said via Instagram, referring to the Sportpaleis arena in Antwerp, Belgium — where Biles won two gold medals at the World Championships 10 years ago.

Biles, 26, is now the only U.S. woman ever selected for six World Championships squads.

Biles took first in an extremely close competition

Bileslocked in her spot on the U.S. squad by taking the top spot in a "nail-biting competition that came down to the final rotation," USA Gymnastics said of the event held in Katy, Texas.

As that final turn began, Biles was third behind Kaliya Lincoln and Shi Jones. But she was also heading to the vault, a traditional strength for Biles. She came away with a less-than-perfect 14.550 — but Jones was unable to capitalize in her bars routine, when her feet touched the mat.

Biles took first place — and guaranteed a trip to worlds — with her score of 55.700. Jones came in second with 55.300, and Skye Blakely was third with 55.000.

The competition did not include Sunisa Lee, the all-around champion at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Lee, 20, has seen her return to elite gymnastics hampered by ongoing kidney-related health issues that lead to swelling and other complications.

This week's U.S. selection competition is being streamed on FlipNow.tv, USA Gymnastics' subscription service.

Turning back the clock

Gymnastics hasn't been the same since 2013, when a 16-year-old Biles set the sport on its ear. That year, the Associated Press hailed "the 4-foot-8 spring-loaded Texan" who claimed the U.S. all-around title over Olympic gold medalist Kyla Ross.

Biles has won 19 World gold medals — more than any other gymnast in history — and 25 medals overall (also a record). The competition is held each year, except those that coincide with an Olympics.

There aren't many superlatives left for Biles to pursue. But her combined 32 medals from the World Championships and Olympic Games are one medal short of Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus, who began his career under the old Soviet regime. Biles has a chance to surpass him this year — and she has also set her sights on a return to the Olympics, at the 2024 Paris Games.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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