Simone Biles is a gymnast- that is what she does. She is in fact an amazing gymnast and likely the best female gymnast on earth.
She had a bad showing at this Olympics. She stated she was the GOAT and she was perhaps overconfident. I remember watching the Russian men’s qualifying round in gymnastics and the announcers were talking more about how amazing Simone was more than the Russians we were watching.
I think the pressure may have got to her. She has spent the last 5 years in the spotlight as the next uber-famous Olympian. She was on magazine covers, become a social media star, and took Michael Phelps’s spot as the greatest US athlete alive.
I would take the opinion of other Olympic and World Champions over anyone else as they know what it takes to compete at that level. I would also consider what the best coaches have had to say: Simone Biles is the most gifted gymnast most have ever seen. She has grace and power, but most importantly a sense of air awareness. This is essential as it allows gymnasts to understand where they are mid-air and to land accurately. Biles has an extraordinary sense of where she is in the air. Something her coach noticed when she was 6.
Biles has won three consecutive all-around World Championships (the first woman to do so) along with four consecutive U.S championships. She has TEN gold medals at the Worlds. TEN gold metals. She has a signature move that even male gymnasts cannot achieve. She is dominant all around and is not simply strong in one main event. She is dominant in the floor, vault, and high beam events having won gold medals in all three. Her uneven bars could use work, but who is complaining.
Simone Biles is only 19 at a time when female gymnasts are able to compete longer due to better nutrition and better sports physiology knowledge. Her closest competitor is 22 and still going strong.
So, is she the best gymnast ever. I say yes. Those who say no will be wrong in less than one year as she adds Olympic gold to her resume and continues to dominate.
And generally speaking if you have a sport increasing in popularity, training, and difficulty, and the current best is also more dominant than anyone else from the past, generally in sports we’d say that person has at the very least the greatest peak.
First thing you’ll notice on the first performance on the Uneven Bars is that the two bars are far closer together than they are today, and that as a result the gymnast can use the two bars completely differently than today. That’s your first clue that apples-to-apples comparisons here are tough.
(For those curious, so far as I’ve read, the decision to move the bars further apart wasn’t done to increase difficulty but to make the event less damaging to the gymnast. Those moves that involve hitting the lower beam with the hips at high speed were often painful and caused not simply muscular injuries but rips to the skin. Gymnasts still worry about such rips on their hands of course, but humans of all sorts are rough on their hands – doing this to the center of the body is a bigger deal.)
The thing pointed to more by those who wax nostalgic to the past is the idea of ‘elegance’. When you watch Comaneci’s body in any event, it’s easy to see her less as an athlete and more as a dancer or body artist…and that’s not something that Simone Biles body can do as well.
As such, while Biles is a more dominant winner than even Comaneci ever was, when people say that they prefer the sport when it was led by those like Comaneci, they aren’t necessarily being grumpy old people and they aren’t necessarily being racist.
The sport has lost something big. So big in fact that it’s name ‘Artistic Gymnastics’ can be argued to be a misnomer.