How Biles shattered the rules of gymnastics

By now, Simone Biles was supposed to be enjoying retirement at the ripe old age of 24.

The 25-time world medallist previously said she would retire after the 2020 Tokyo Olympics — capping an illustrious career in a sport in which many gymnasts struggle or retire by the time they turn 20.

But the pandemic ruined everyone’s plans and postponed the Olympics for a year. Biles said she was devastated but supported the decision.

Some fans wondered whether this setback would render Biles too old or too worn out to repeat the dominance she showed as a 19-year-old, four-time gold medalist at the 2016 Olympics.

It turns out she’s even better now than before — pushing herself and her sport to new heights (literally).

Here are some of the astonishing skills Biles has introduced since winning her last Olympic gold — and how she’s learned to excel despite severe personal trauma.

The triple-double on the floor (the Biles II)

Biles has debuted so many daredevil tricks, she now has four skills officially named after her.She unleashed one of them at the 2019 US Gymnastics Championships in Kansas City, Missouri — a triple-twisting double backflip on the floor.

Try not to get dizzy watching it.

This defiance of physics and gravity is called the Biles II. That’s because Biles already had a floor exercise skill named after her, which she showed off at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The original “Biles” is a double laid-out backflip with a half-twist added mid-air. It has a blind landing, meaning the gymnast can’t see the ground before landing.

The double-double off the balance beam

Yet another skill called the Biles — this one off the balance beam — is so difficult and dangerous, some say its namesake was penalised in points for performing it.

This “Biles” involves bouncing off a 10cm-wide balance beam and dismounting with two twists and two backflips. It’s so risky that the point value for difficulty was downgraded to deter less capable gymnasts from trying it.

But at the 2019 US Gymnastics Championships, Biles didn’t just prove this feat was possible — she also nailed the landing.

The mesmerising ‘Biles’ vault

Even though Biles could win competitions without inventing new skills, she often pushes herself harder with mind-boggling tricks the world has never seen before.

Behold the Biles (vault): A roundoff onto the springboard, a half twist before hitting the vaulting table, then a front flip with two-and-a-half twists (fully stretched out) and a blind landing.

Don’t try this at home.

The double-layout, double-tuck

After the 2020 Olympics were postponed, Biles didn’t just hunker down in front of the TV.

She trained harder and tested more skills, such as a double-layout, double-tuck.

That means jumping into the air, doing two backflips without bending her body, landing, then immediately launching into two backward, airborne somersaults.

The Yurchenko double pike vault

In her latest flex, Biles showed off a vault that had never been attempted by a woman in competition.

At the GK US Classic in Indianapolis on Saturday, Biles performed a Yurchenko double pike vault. That’s a roundoff onto a springboard, a backward dive onto the vaulting table and two full backflips in the difficult pike position.

The vault takes immense power and strength. “Only a handful of men have done it,” Olympic gold medalist and NBC sports commentator Tim Daggett said. “And she does it better than them.”

It was a moment that trascended her sport, with NBA icon LeBron James among those dazzled by Biles’ unprecedented prowess.

More than just gymnastics

In recent years, Biles has also been a fierce supporter of sexual abuse survivors after saying she was among the dozens of young women and girls sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

Even though she’s still competing, Biles called out USA Gymnastics for not launching an independent investigation into the Nassar scandal.

And while athletes grapple with derailed plans and uncertainty about the Tokyo Olympics, Biles and many others started helping those impacted by the pandemic.

She partnered with Athletes for COVID-19 Relief, which supports the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s Covid-19 Response Fund.

Anyone donating more than $25 has a chance to win a leotard autographed by Biles or other autographed items donated by dozens of famous athletes.

“In a crisis like this, everyone wants to jump to their feet and help, and I had that opportunity,” Biles told NBC’s Today show.

“By donating that leo, it will make sure that kids don’t fall behind in school and that small businesses are on their feet.”

**This story originally appeared on CNN and was reproduced with permission

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