Simone Biles Becomes World Championships’ Most Decorated Gymnast

Simone Biles on Sunday became the most decorated gymnast in world championship history, winning gold medals in the balance beam and the floor exercise to increase her career medal total in the championships to 25.

The record medal count — one more than the previous high, held for more than two decades by Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus — strengthened the case of those who already consider Biles, at 22, to be the greatest gymnast of all time. .

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25 WORLD MEDALS @Simone_Biles closes out #Stuttgart2019 on a golden note! ????

— Team USA (@TeamUSA) October 13, 2019

Her milestone extended a ruthless run of efficiency at the world championships this past week in Stuttgart, Germany. On Tuesday, Biles led the American women to their fifth consecutive gold medal in the team competition, becoming the most decorated woman, with 21 career medals. Two days later, she steamrollered her rivals in the all-around event, cruising to a first-place finish by an impressive margin of 2.1 points. On Saturday, she tied Scherbo by claiming the gold in the vault.

Biles began her senior gymnastics career in 2013. That year, at 16, she earned her first four medals at the world championships in Antwerp, Belgium, including golds in the all-around and the floor exercise.

In 2016, Biles’s four gold medals and generally dominant showing at the 2016 Olympic Games made her an international celebrity. Her profile most likely will only grow next summer in Tokyo, where she is widely expected to add to her collection of five Olympic medals.

Rather than showing signs of slowing down or resting on her laurels, she has continued to innovate and improve, widening the already prodigious gap between her and her competitors.

Before Saturday, Scherbo’s record had been untouched for 23 years. A native of Minsk, he claimed his medals at six world championship meets, from 1991 to 1996, competing for the Soviet Union, the Commonwealth of Independent States and then Belarus.

Men’s gymnasts compete in up to eight events at the world championships, while their women’s counterparts compete in only six, a fact that — to her supporters and others — has made Biles’s record-setting medal count all the more impressive.

Biles latest accomplishments have emerged against a backdrop of turmoil at U.S.A. Gymnastics, the governing body for the sport in America, which was roiled by the scandal involving Larry G. Nassar, a former team doctor who was accused of molesting hundreds of athletes, including Biles.

For Gymnasts, Getting a Grip Is Sweeter Than … You Know

Sam Mikulak, a six-time American national champion in gymnastics, always follows the same honeying technique before he mounts the parallel bars.

He squirts a drop from his honey bottle onto one of his palms and rubs them together until his hands are nice and sticky. Then he reaches into the chalk bucket, dusts up both hands, salutes the judges, takes a deep breath and grabs the bars. He’s ready to go.

“It’s golden,” he said of his honeying technique.

Mikulak has lots of company. Though it’s little known outside this world, virtually all competitive male gymnasts honey up before they take flight.

“I think it’s a mental thing for me,” said Donothan Bailey, a nine-time member of the American national team. “I feel like if I don’t put any honey on, then it’s just going to suck.”

At the United States gymnastics championships in Kansas City, Mo., over the summer, more than a dozen honey bottles were lined up and ready to go by the parallel bars. The scene looks the same at the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany, this week.

“I’ve found that organic is the best one,” said Trevor Howard, a member of the American team competing in Germany. “The darker the better.”

“Not organic,” said Akash Modi, another team member. “I feel like the more sugary, the better.”

Honey, however, is rarely used by the women in gymnastics, who do not compete on the parallel bars. On the uneven bars, though, their routines involve swinging and release moves for which stickiness is a liability.

Instead, the women use leather grips. There are a few athletes, like the national team member Riley McCusker, who put a couple of drops into water bottles and spray the mixture onto their grips. McCusker’s coach, Maggie Haney, said they got the idea after watching opposing teams do it at an international competition.

“The secrets we learn from other countries,” Haney said.

Mark Williams, the head coach of the men’s team at worlds, is as well versed as anyone when it comes to the history of honey and gymnastics. He competed in the 1970s and ’80s, when the practice began.

Until then, men relied on their chalked hands. But in the 1970s, as routines became more challenging, they needed to find a better way to hang on. Gymnasts were doing swings under the parallel bar that required a strong grip, like giants (when a gymnast begins in a handstand position then swings under the bars and back into a handstand).

The move toward stickiness can be traced to men on the Soviet Union teams, Williams said, although they didn’t actually use honey. It was too expensive and scarce in the homeland. To get sticky, they concocted a combination of boiling water and sugar.

Williams credits Bart Conner, who won two gold medals at the 1984 Olympics, with giving the Soviet approach an American twist.

“Connor took a Coke can and just sprinkled it on there,” said Williams, who is also the men’s head coach at the University of Oklahoma. “The sugar was sticky when it dried.”

Others experimented with corn syrup, the most popular being Karo. By the mid-1980s, the transition was complete: from sugar to corn syrup to honey.

“Apparently the consistency of honey is that it gets tacky and then dries, so it’s not slick,” Williams said. “It’s tacky enough that they actually have a better grip.”

The gymnast Kanji Oyama makes his own blend: a combination of honey and syrup. It’s beloved by his teammates at the United States Olympic and Paralympic training centers in Colorado Springs.

“He just makes this gorgeous combination,” Mikulak said. “It’s a proprietary blend, Kanji special.”

Although he isn’t picky, the “Kanji special” is always Mikulak’s first choice. “When he’s got the goods, I’m going to use it,” Mikulak said.

For meets, competitors travel with their favorite brands, so they don’t have to worry about tracking down the right honey in an unfamiliar setting.

There are risks. Howard once made the mistake of packing his honey in a carry-on bag and had it seized by Transportation Security Administration agents. “T.S.A. will take it if you forget about it,” he said. “You have to adapt to the situation.”

Gymnasts and coaches wipe down the parallel bars with a towel between routines so everyone starts fresh. Though honey building up on the equipment can be a problem, coaches say it will eventually dry up, turn crusty and chip off.

Mikulak said a bottle would last him about two months. In addition to individual supplies, the University of Oklahoma keeps a team bottle that, according to Williams, needs to be refilled about every two weeks.

At the end of the day after a long workout, Williams said, gymnasts will take the honey bottles home and use it on their food.

“It tastes good,” said Howard.

Simone Biles Breezes to 5th World All-Around Title

STUTTGART, Germany — Even Simone Biles has trouble wrapping her head around just how good she has become.

On Thursday night, just after she secured her fifth all-around world championship — in what could reasonably be considered the least suspenseful international title event in all of sports this year — Biles was asked to step back and consider the heights she has scaled in field of gymnastics.

“I don’t know; I feel like it’s not me,” Biles said. “Sometimes I wonder how I do it. I feel like it’s just, like, not me. I wish I could have like an out-of-body experience to witness it, because sometimes I think I’m going crazy.”

Watching video replays of her performances — the types of clips that have spread virally on social media in recent years, transcending the world of gymnastics, delighting hard-core fans and casual spectators alike — does not give her any more clarity.

Those, she said, leave her dumbfounded, too.

“I’m just like, ‘I don’t know how I did that,’ ” Biles said. “I really don’t know how I do it sometimes.”

Biles finished Thursday’s all-around competition with a score of 58.999. Her margin of victory — 2.1 points — was the largest of her career. Tang Xijing of China finished in second place, and Angelina Melnikova of Russia was third.

The gold medal was Biles’s 22nd medal at the world championships (16 of them gold), leaving her only one behind the career record held by Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus. (She already has the women’s record for medals.) She is expected to claim to overall record by the time the championships come to a close this weekend.

“Yeah,” Biles said of the medal count. “It’s a lot.”

Biles was not particularly enthused about her performances on Thursday; she said she played it safe, by her standards, in a number of circumstances. But the crowd at the arena nevertheless reveled in them.

She was the only gymnast left competing when she stepped out for her floor exercise, and a hush fell over the arena as she settled into position.

Right away, Biles unleashed her parabolic, triple-twisting, double-somersault pass. Even as her momentum carried her slightly out of bounds, the move inspired appreciative gasps and raucous cheering from a crowd that had up to then limited itself to polite, supportive applause for the carousel of competitors that afternoon.

And at the conclusion of her routine, after several more explosions off the ground, she unveiled a sly exclamation point: Posing on the mat, she stretched out her right arm and pretended to drop a microphone — a mischievous flourish she adopted on a whim after a late night conversation with her teammate MyKayla Skinner.

“So me and MyKayla saw a tweet about it last night, and she was like, ‘Oh my gosh you should do it,’ and I was like, ‘Are you sure?’ and she was like ‘Yeah, sure,’ and I was like, ‘O.K., well, if it’s a good routine I’ll do it,” Biles said afterward. “It wasn’t my best performance, but I landed on my feet. That’s all I can be happy about.”

That Biles could sound so lukewarm about her performance and still waltz away with her fifth all-around world championship speaks to how far beyond the competition she has surged.

She won four gold medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and appeared to be an athlete at the summit of her powers.

Instead she has continued to ascend, adding new skills, altering long-held perceptions about what is possible in a gymnastics arena and leaving observers of the sport wondering how much higher she can go.

“She is absolutely the best I have ever seen,” Liang Chow, the coach of the Chinese team, said.

Gymnastics’ Latest Twist? Robot Judges That See Everything

STUTTGART, Germany — The rectangular gray boxes arrayed around the floor at the gymnastics world championships this week are easy enough to ignore.

But these little boxes, 30 of them in all, hold outsize significance: According to Morinari Watanabe, the president of the International Gymnastics Federation, their presence at the worlds signals “the beginning of the new history of gymnastics.”

The robot judges, in other words, have arrived.

Amid the displays of athleticism and artistry at this week’s championships, there also has emerged a development in technology that could hint at the trajectory of officiating across the sports landscape.

Each of the gray boxes keeping watch in Stuttgart, designed by the Japanese company Fujitsu and about the size and shape of a Wi-Fi router, contained a set of three-dimensional laser sensors that tracked the movements of each of the 547 gymnasts from 92 nations participating this week. That data was fed to an artificial intelligence system, accessible to the human judges, that measured and analyzed skeletal positions, speeds and angles — some of them unavailable or simply missed by the judges — as the athletes went through their movements.

Thanks to all this, Watanabe explained, no longer would gymnasts — many of whom, he noted, had started gymnastics as young as age 3 and had trained competitively for more than a decade — risk having their efforts unceremoniously wasted by human error or interference.

“This is a step toward the challenge of justice through technology,” Watanabe said.

The debut of such technology at the biggest gymnastics meet outside the Olympics represented a meaningful milestone in a sport periodically marred by judging controversies and often wracked with questions about political influence in scoring decisions.

For all the grand language, and for all the big-picture prophesying it has inspired about the future of sports — baseball is already experimenting with robot umpires, and tennis is starting to expand electronic line-calling — the steps unveiled in Stuttgart were preliminary, and fairly subtle.

In gymnastics, at least, humansl very much remain in control. For now.

At the world championships, the artificial intelligence system instead has served a supporting role, available to judges to confirm difficulty scores in two circumstances: in the event of inquiries (when gymnasts formally challenge the judges’ score) and blocked scores (when there is a large deviation between the sets of judges). And the technology, officially, remains limited to a few events: pommel horse, rings and men’s and women’s vault.

The gymnastics federation did not release any detailed data related to the launch of the A.I. system this week. But Steve Butcher, the federation’s sports director, noted that reviews aided by the computer system had already resulted in “a few changes” at the championships, which continue through Sunday.

Butcher said judges were separately reviewing a large portion of the exercises through the Fujitsu system for the purposes of verification and education.

Despite the fanfare of the system’s introduction and its potential effect on scores, athletes and coaches said they were not paying too much attention to the A.I. judges. Laurent Landi, who coaches the American star Simone Biles, said that it was too early, and the procedures not sufficiently integrated, to fully ponder the implications of the technology. But he said once the computers proved their accuracy, they could represent a big, positive step for the sport.

“We all know how subjective scoring can be,” Landi said.

Others expressed wariness, arguing a computerized system contradicted the human heart of the sport.

“We shouldn’t turn it over to robots because, to be honest, I think that’s a little weird,” said Yul Moldauer, a member of the American men’s team. “I think we should always have human beings being the judges.”

Before this year’s competition, Moldauer and the hundreds of other competitors were asked to participate in what Butcher called a “body dimension measurement” procedure — effectively a precise scan of their bodies and movements — so that the analyses could proceed with maximum accuracy.

The precompetition measurements were voluntary, but Butcher made sure to point out that several athletes who had agreed to be scanned this week later benefited during the championships by having one of their scores increased upon review.

Takehiko Ishii, an executive for Fujitsu, estimated that more than 90 percent of the athletes had agreed to participate. Those who did not were evaluated using standardized body dimensions, but, he said, “some gymnasts have thick muscles, and some gymnasts are thin, so it’s better to have the body dimension measurements.”

MyKayla Skinner, a member of the United States women’s team, said there was a lot of discussion, and some confusion, among her teammates when they were asked to review the paperwork to sign off on the scans.

“We were like: ‘I don’t know, do we? Do we not? This is so weird!’” Skinner said. “But I think in some ways it’s going to be very, very great, just because there’s so much politics that go into gymnastics.”

Asked about concerns about data privacy, Butcher said all of the athlete information collected at the competition would be discarded at a predetermined expiration date.

At the same time, Ishii said there had been preliminary conversations about whether such data could eventually be collected and sold as part of training materials for the public, with athletes receiving any royalties.

Amid all the other minor concerns, however, most discussions about the so-called robot judges have tended to lead to a larger, simpler question: Will there come a time when human judges are eliminated completely?

Ishii said the A.I. was not yet sophisticated enough to take over fully for humans. But one day it might, he said.

Coaches and gymnasts were more skeptical about an artificial intelligence system’s ability to ever fully evaluate a nuanced gymnastics routine.

“The computer cannot understand artistry, mastery, cannot understand the feeling in the movements you make,” said Enrico Casella, an Italian coach. “It can see all the angles better than judges, but the artistic part is impossible.”

The decision to unveil the technology this week came after a series of tests, beginning with one at last year’s world championships in Doha, Qatar. The International Olympic Committee is aware of the technology, but it has not publicly announced whether the A.I. system — or a different one — will be employed at the Olympics next summer in Tokyo.

Fujitsu and F.I.G. said they envisioned a future in which the 3-D laser sensors were used not only in competition, but to enhance the viewing experience for fans. The federation and a Japanese broadcaster experimented this week with integrating the data into television broadcasts. Coaches, meanwhile, were considering their value as a training tool.

“Once we learn about — we’re calling them robots — once we determine what the robots can really see, then it could absolutely dictate the direction of coaching for us,” said Tom Forster, the high-performance team coordinator for the American women’s team. “The human eye can’t pick up everything.”

Russia Wins Men’s Team Title at the World Gymnastics Championships

STUTTGART, Germany — Nikita Nagornyy shrugged off nearly 30 years’ worth of pressure to give Russia its first men’s team gymnastics world title since the Soviet era.

A year after losing to China by less than five-hundredths of a point, Russia took advantage of a crucial fall by a Chinese gymnast to turn the tables.

Ivan Stretovich and Artur Dalaloyan built a solid lead for Russia with their high bar routines, leaving Nagornyy to seal the win when he stuck his dismount.

“I enjoyed the moment because these sensations and impressions that you feel before going out there, the responsibility, that’s something you can never find in life,” said Nagornyy, a team silver medalist behind China at the 2016 Olympics and 2018 world championships. “Only sports can give you emotions like that.”

China seemed in complete control when Zou Jingyuan got by far the best score on the parallel bars to send his team into the high bar — the last rotation for both China and Russia — with a solid 1.394-point lead. However, that all changed with China’s next routine. Sun Wei fell on a release, and suddenly the competition was Russia’s for the taking.

Russia finished with a total score of 261.726. That was 0.997 ahead of China, which had won the men’s team event at seven of the last eight world championships.

It was the first time Russia had won the world team title since the Soviet Union’s victory in 1991, although it won the Olympic gold medal in the same event in 1996. Another ex-Soviet nation, Belarus, took the world title in 2001.

Dalaloyan said he had been tormented by the narrow defeat to China in 2018.

“For a whole year I couldn’t sleep soundly because I didn’t have that medal. A year ago we let it go with our errors when we were competing with the Chinese,” Dalaloyan said.

Amid Russia’s celebrations, Dalaloyan walked over to the Chinese team and embraced each athlete, including Sun, who was weeping and covered his face with a jacket.

“I did that out of respect for the Chinese team because I saw some people had tears in their eyes and started to remember myself a year ago,” he said. “I saw the frustration on the guys’ faces and decided to support them because we’re all friends, all people. I know what it’s like to be second, so out of humanity I went over to support the guys.”

Japan took the bronze, continuing its run of reaching the men’s team podium at every world championships since 2003. It was the first year since 1991 that the same three had teams made the podium two years running.

The United States finished fourth at 254.578 as Sam Mikulak, a two-time world bronze medalist, bounced back from a poor showing in qualifying and posted the third-best scores on floor, parallel bars and high bar.

Simone Biles Breaks a Record at World Championships as the U.S. Wins Another Team Title

STUTTGART, Germany — Simone Biles won a record 21st medal at the world gymnastics championships on Tuesday as the United States women retained their team all-around title.

It was the 15th world championship gold of Biles’s career, and it broke a tie with the Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina for the most medals over all by a woman at the world championships. She is now two short of Vitaly Scherbo’s 23, which is the record for both men and women.

“Every year it feels better and better just because we’re adding to the legacy,” Biles said. “I feel like I never think of records. I just go out there and do what I came to do, which is compete for the country.”

The American team scored 172.330 points to beat Russia, the runner-up, by 5.801 points and win its seventh consecutive team title at an Olympics or world championships.

The reward for winning was a battery-powered medal that lights up when it senses movement. Biles called it “the sickest medal we’ve ever had.”

Biles, 22, posted the best individual scores on the vault, the balance beam and the floor.

“I think if I do the routine that I did tonight I’ll be more than happy” in Thursday’s individual all-around final, she said.

A fall for Sunisa Lee on balance beam and a fumbled routine from Grace McCallum on the uneven bars left the United States with room for improvement, though both were strong in other events.

“It’s just so surreal to come out here and end up on top with the strength of the team that we have, even after having a couple falls out there,” Biles said.

Russia became the first team to get within six points of the United States since China at the 2015 world championships.

“We’re happy that we got second because we can’t battle the Americans just yet,” the Russian gymnast Angelina Melnikova said. “But today the gap was significantly lower than at the last few world championships.”

Biles said other teams were “most definitely” closing in.

“All of the teams have improved their difficulty over the last quad,” she said, “and I think that’s really exciting to see the strength that they have.”

Italy took the bronze to end its 69-year wait for a women’s team medal, as China failed to make the podium for the first time since the 2003 world championships.

China took fourth on a tough day for Liu Tingting, who fell twice on the uneven bars and again on the balance beam.

A fall on the beam mount by the last Italian competitor, Elisa Iorio, made for a tense finish, but she recovered to score enough to stay ahead of China by 0.536 points.

It was a big recovery for Italy, which qualified in last place for the final.

“The goal for today was just to do better than qualification and how it goes, it goes,” the Italian gymnast Giorgia Villa said through an interpreter.

Tevin Biles-Thomas, Brother of U.S. Gymnast, Is Charged in a Triple Murder

Tevin Biles-Thomas, whose sister is the champion gymnast Simone Biles, was arrested on Thursday and charged with the murder of three people who were shot and killed at a party in Cleveland last New Year’s Eve.

Mr. Biles-Thomas, 24, is an active duty member of the United States Army who was stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia at the time of his arrest, an Army spokesman confirmed. He was charged with homicide, voluntary manslaughter, felonious assault and perjury.

The shooting happened at a house party on Dec. 31, according to a joint statement from the Cleveland Division of Police and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office.

“Around 11:30 p.m., an uninvited group walked into the house and an altercation ensued between the uninvited guests and those who were invited,” the statement said. “The altercation led to gunfire and multiple victims were shot, three of which were fatal. Several party attendees fled the scene.”

ImageMr. Biles-Thomas, 24, was charged with homicide, voluntary manslaughter, felonious assault and perjury.

CreditLiberty County Sheriff’s Office

DelVaunte Johnson, 19; Toshaun Banks, 21; and DeVaughn Gibson, 23, were killed in the shooting. Two others were injured.

“The relentless persistence of Cleveland police homicide detectives helped secure an indictment in this case,” said Michael C. O’Malley, the prosecutor for Cuyahoga County. “It is through their hard work that we can begin to seek justice for these victims.”

Mr. Biles-Thomas is being held at the Liberty County Jail in Georgia and is scheduled to be arraigned on Sept. 13. It is unclear whether he has a lawyer, and family members could not immediately be reached on Friday.

Mr. Biles-Thomas is one of Ms. Biles’s three biological siblings, but they were not raised in the same household. She and her younger sister, Adria, were adopted by their grandparents, Nellie and Ron Biles, at a young age and raised in the Houston area. Ms. Biles has said she considers Ron and Nellie to be her mother and father.

“My birth mother suffered from drug addiction, and when I was just 3 years old, my siblings and I were removed from her custody,” Ms. Biles wrote in an essay for CNN last year. “From there, we bounced around until I was 6 and my grandparents made the brave move to adopt us. Although I was young when my foster care ordeal began, I remember how it felt to be passed off and overlooked.”

The nature of Mr. Biles-Thomas’s relationship with his sister Simone is unclear, but she has shared photographs of the two of them on social media.

Ms. Biles is an Olympic gold medalist and the most decorated American gymnast ever. Her prodigious talent has been a bright spot for U.S.A. Gymnastics, an organization that is otherwise in turmoil.

In the United States Gymnastics Championships this month, Ms. Biles cemented her status atop the sport. Her winning performance included two skills never before executed in a women’s gymnastics competition: a triple double (two flips with three twists) in floor exercise and a double-double dismount (two flips with two twists) off the balance beam.

In a tweet on Thursday evening, Ms. Biles said, “Eating my feelings don’t talk to me.” Representatives of Ms. Biles did not respond to a request for comment on Friday morning.

Simone Biles Hits Triple-Double and Clinches Sixth U.S. Title

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Simone Biles messed around and got a triple-double. And just about everything else too on her way to a sixth women’s title at the United States Gymnastics Championships.

The Olympic champion began her preparation for the 2020 Games by drilling her boundary pushing triple-twisting, double-flip — also known as the triple-double — at the end of her first tumbling run on floor exercise Sunday night, the exclamation point of another dazzling performance that showcased just how wide the gulf between Biles and the rest of the world has become.

Biles had a two-day all-around total of 118.500, nearly five points clear of Sunisa Lee in second and almost eight points ahead of Grace McCallum in third. Biles, 22, took the top scores on floor, vault and balance beam and placed third on bars, bouncing back from a sloppy set Friday that left the world’s top gymnast, and admitted perfectionist, seething.

There were no muttered curse words this time. Only a borderline sarcastic jump for joy after she finished off a typically brilliant night by drilling her dismount on uneven bars to extend an unbeaten streak that began at the 2013 national championships. Biles gave her coach, Laurent Landi, a relieved high-five before sticking out her tongue and waving her arms as she ran to hug the rest of competitors in her rotation.

Two days removed from an off day — at least by her impossibly high standards — Biles responded with four sublime rotations that showcased the mix of technical precision, audacious ambition and charismatic showmanship that have become her trademark.

The opening night began with Biles shorting her attempt at the triple-double, a miscue that Landi admitted “bled” from one routine to the next. For any other gymnast, it would have been the meet of their lives. For Biles, it wasn’t nearly good enough.

She promised to be better in the finals. She was more than that. It’s the challenge of pushing herself to the edge of her remarkable abilities that brought her back to the sport a year ago. Her pursuit is symbolized by the idea to include the triple-double — a skill never done before by a woman in competition — in her floor routine.

ImageBiles shined in each skill, including the balance beam where she finished with the top scores.

CreditCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

Mathematically, she didn’t need to add it to maintain her advantage over the rest of the world. Instead, she did it just to see if she could. After expressing some concern during warm-ups about the corner of the floor where she would complete the skill, maintenance workers replaced the entire covering just minutes before the event began.

Biles responded by nailing it and keeping her feet just inside the boundary as the packed arena roared. A radiant smile followed, quickly followed by a rock steady set on beam and a pair of vaults that looked remarkably easy even though only a handful of athletes on the planet even attempt them.

There were no major errors during her bars set on Friday. It was just messy, filled with uncharacteristic form breaks. Not this time. Her 14.750 was the second-best on the event all night.

Only Lee, 16, was better. Lee solidified her chances at joining Biles on the five-woman world championship team when it’s selected next month by backing up an impressive opening night by shaking off a hop off the beam to maintain her grasp on second.

McCallum, who won team gold with Biles at the 2018 world championships, surged from ninth to third by putting up the second-highest all-around total on Sunday. Morgan Hurd, the 2017 world champion, rebounded from a rocky floor exercise on Friday that dropped her to eighth overall to zoom up to fourth.

Riley McCusker, a world championship team member last fall, withdrew halfway through on Sunday because of an illness.

Simone Biles Set a New Standard. Can U.S.A. Gymnastics Do the Same?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Simone Biles stuck one final landing, this one on the uneven bars, and sealed the all-around championship that had been hers to lose all weekend. Then ran off the mat with her tongue out and her head bobbing back and forth. There was a huge smile on her face.

“I was a lot happier today,” Biles said after winning her record-tying sixth United States Gymnastics national championship Sunday night. “I feel I haven’t been as confident on bars this year as I was last year. To finally do a good routine like I can do it, I was really happy.”


— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) August 12, 2019

Her exuberance, and her joy, after her win were a stark contrast from the feelings she had displayed on Wednesday, two days before the competition. Then, Biles had shed tears while discussing the current state of U.S.A. Gymnastics, the governing board for the sport in America.

It was hard, Biles had said, to continue to represent an organization “having had them fail us so many times.”

“How,” she had asked, “can we trust them?”

One year out from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the United States championships were the perfect forum to assess the two poles of American gymnastics: the gold-standard excellence of Biles, and the continuing questions about U.S.A. Gymnastics.

Biles did her part. Her winning performance included two skills never executed successfully before in women’s gymnastics competition: a triple-double (two flips with three twists) on floor exercise and a double-double dismount (two flips with two twists) on balance beam. She finished 4.95 points ahead of the next closest competitor, Sunisa Lee — an advantage that represents a landslide in gymnastics scoring.

U.S.A. Gymnastics, meanwhile, remains a body in turmoil, cycling through leaders and still struggling to emerge from the looming shadow of the Lawrence G. Nassar scandal. Nassar, a former doctor for both Team U.S.A. and Michigan State, was accused of molesting over 300 athletes under the guise of medical treatment. Biles revealed more than a year ago that she, too, was one of Nassar’s victims.

Biles said that she still did not trust U.S.A. Gymnastics to protect its athletes, and that it was difficult for her to compete for an organization that had hurt her so many times.

“I just shut it out,” Biles said, when asked how she controls her emotions when she competes. “I’m here to do a job.”

ImageSimone Biles broke into a wide smile after wrapping up her national title on Sunday night.

CreditCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

The federation has hired three chief executives in the last two years. Li Li Leung, a childhood gymnast and former N.B.A. executive who in February became the latest charged with leading the troubled organization, said she hoped to bring stability to the governing body.

“I acknowledge that we still have a lot of work to do,” Leung said last week, before the championships opened. “This is a marathon, not a sprint. I think I’m in Mile 1 of the marathon.”

U.S.A. Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in December, and it is currently in mediation to resolve some of the lawsuits it faces related to Nassar’s years of sexual abuse of gymnasts. Although Leung said she was not allowed to disclose specifics because of the ongoing litigation, she said the decision to file for bankruptcy was made so that the organization could resolve the claims of the Nassar victims in an “efficient and short amount of time.” No victims have received any payouts from U.S.A. Gymnastics, and there is no timeline for when any will occur.

The organization currently has no sponsors, with the exception of the gymnastics apparel company GK, and Leung said no new partnerships would be sought until U.S.A. Gymnastics had its house in order.

In November, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee moved toward stripping U.S.A. Gymnastics of its certification, which would give the U.S.O.P.C. full control of the national governing body. Leung said there were four things U.S.A. Gymnastics needed to improve on to stop this process: leadership stability, financial stability, athlete safety and building trust within the community.

Leung has made it a point to be present and out in the open, doing her part, it seems, to contribute to the last pillar. She was out on the competition floor hugging and cheering the athletes over the weekend, and she said she had spoken with more than 400 athletes, coaches and gymnastics club owners during her five-month tenure.

Another positive, Leung said, was the record attendance at the championships. A crowd of about 12,000 watched the women’s competition Sunday.

“We are starting to rebuild trust in our community in terms of taking part in our events,” Leung said.

The more likely explanation was that the crowd had come primarily to see Biles; the attendance at the women’s competition was nearly double that for the men.

In addition to Biles, the crowd got to see the next generation of gymnasts start to make their next steps toward qualifying for the Olympics. Biles was the only member of the 2016 Olympic team competing in Kansas City.

Lee, 16, dazzled with elegant routines throughout the weekend. Behind her were Grace McCallum, 16, and Morgan Hurd, 18. Although not a top contender in the all-around, Jade Carey, 19, showcased her power in the vault and the floor exercise, finishing second only to Biles in each event. Riley McCusker, 18, a bronze medalist last year, scratched from the competition because of an illness.

Biles, though, appears to be in even better shape than she was in 2016, when she won the all-around competition, even if her perfectionist tendencies showed through even in victory. Biles said she still felt as if she had work to do. She was angry with her routines on the first day of competition on Friday, when she wasn’t able to control the landing on the triple-double and touched both hands down at the end of the move. She rebounded on Sunday, completing the move with only a slight hop backward.

“I’m just happy that I landed it,” Biles said. “I feel like after night one, my confidence got shot down. I was really worried about it going into today.”

Next up on the road to Tokyo: the World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, in October. The team will be selected after a training camp at the end of September. The competition that will follow the camp will be open to the public, another change as the organization aims for more transparency.

On the men’s side, Sam Mikulak, 26, won his sixth national title commandingly, finishing 5.5 points ahead of the closest competitor. While the point differential on the women’s side is a sign of Biles’s dominance, for the men it reveals a lack of depth within the national team.

Mikulak acknowledged this after his win, calling it the “easiest time period” for someone to win a national title. As a team, the men have not placed on the medal stand at a World Championships or Olympic Games since 2008.

“I’ve done this a couple times,” he said, referring to his six national titles. “I’m ready for bigger aspirations.”

Simone Biles, in Tears, Says She Still Cannot Trust U.S.A. Gymnastics

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two days before Simone Biles will compete for her sixth national gymnastics title, she ended up in tears while discussing her lack of faith in U.S.A. Gymnastics, the sport’s national governing body, after the Lawrence G. Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

Speaking with the news media on Wednesday after a training session in Kansas City, Mo., ahead of the United States Gymnastics Championships, Biles was not able to contain her emotions when asked about a tweet she posted on the subject Aug. 4. The more she learns, she said in the tweet, the more she feels hurt by U.S.A. Gymnastics.

“It’s hard coming here to an organization and having had them fail us so many times,” Biles said Wednesday as she began to cry.

Biles posted her tweet in response to a news story about a congressional subcommittee’s investigation focusing on the safety of athletes in Olympic sports.

Biles revealed last year that she was one of more than 300 athletes who had accused Nassar, a team doctor for both U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University, of molesting them under the guise of a medical procedure.

After pleading guilty to multiple sex crimes, Nassar was sentenced last year to prison terms that amount to a life sentence. The congressional subcommittee has harshly criticized U.S.A. Gymnastics, which has been in turmoil since the Nassar scandal came to light in 2016. The federation has hired three new chief executives in the last two years.

“It becomes a problem whenever we work with future people,” Biles, 22, said. “How can we trust them? They bring in new people all the time, and I automatically put my foot up, because the people that I’ve known for years had failed us.”

Biles, who won the all-around title at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, said she still did not trust the organization.

“You had one job, you literally had one job, and you couldn’t protect us,” she said. “Did you guys really not like us that much that you couldn’t just do your job?”

ImageBiles during a performance in London this spring. She is the reigning all-around Olympic champion and a five-time national champion.

CreditLaurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Biles said that there were times after the Nassar revelations that going to the gym was too difficult. Other times, she said, a switch would flip in the middle of a workout, and she would be reminded of what happened to her and have to walk out of the gym.

“You feel everything at once; it hits you like a train wreck,” she said.

Biles also said she has had trouble trusting doctors, and that she has had to force herself to get the treatment she needs to continue in the sport. She is in therapy, she said, to help her cope with the trauma.

“As a gymnast, if we’re hurt or something goes wrong, you go to a doctor or you go to your coaches, and they tell you all the right steps to the healing process,” Biles said. “But for this, everyone’s healing process is different, and I think that’s the hardest part.”

In a statement responding to Biles’s comments, Li Li Leung, the president and chief executive of U.S.A. Gymnastics, said: “We will continue to work hard to demonstrate to Simone and all of our athletes, members, community and fans that we are working to foster a safe, positive and encouraging environment where athlete voices are heard.”

At this point, Biles said, all she can do is hope U.S.A. Gymnastics will do the right thing — even if she has her doubts.

“At the end of the day, it’s a ticking time bomb,” she said.