Any doubt that Simone Biles is the greatest gymnast in history was erased at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium. The 26-year-old phenom took home five medals — including four gold — at the competition, which took place from September 30 to October 8, 2023. Biles won the gold medal in the all-around, balance beam, floor exercise, and team competition events. She took home a silver in the vault.
Biles is the first woman to win six World all-around titles, four World balance beam titles, and six World floor exercise titles. With a total of 37 medals between the World Championships and the Olympics, Biles is now the world's most decorated gymnast, male or female.
And if that is not enough, on October 1, 2023, Biles made further history by becoming the first woman to complete a Yurchenko double pike at an international competition. The difficult skill consists of a backflip off the vault and two complete rotations in a pike position before landing.
Gymnastics skills are named after the first athlete who completes them at a major international contest. Hence, the vault element will now be called "Biles II." This is the fifth move named after the decorated gymnast. She has one on the balance beam, two on the floor exercise, and two on vault.
Biles' achievements are even more incredible, given that this was her first World Championships since 2019. The gymnast has been on a break after suffering a case of "the twisties" during the team vault finals at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. The psychological condition is attributed to stress. It disorients athletes, causing them to lose awareness during a routine, and can lead to serious injury.
After the incident, Biles decided to take a break from the sport and focus on her mental well-being. Her willingness to openly discuss the subject helped bring global attention to this all-important issue.
Following the World Championships, Biles thanked her loved ones and fans for their support during this difficult time.
"I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude for fans, friends, family, and partnerships who have been unwavering pillars of support throughout my mental health journey," she wrote on her Instagram. "Your encouragement, love, and belief in me have been instrumental in my success and recovery."
Resources: USAtoday.com, NPR.com, NBCnewyork.com