Simone Biles is the most dominant female gymnast in recent memory, possibly history.
For the past three years, she’s won every team and individual all-around competition she’s competed in. At the Olympics, she maintained that record, helping the American team to gold as well as wiping the floor during the individual competition. She also added a gold medal in vault and a bronze on balance beam.
And on Tuesday, Biles added a gold in the floor exercise, bringing her total to four golds and five medals in all. Biles scored a 15.966, almost a half-point better than Aly Raisman’s 15.5 — a score good enough for silver.
There is no event that showcases Biles’s strength and transcendent quality as a gymnast as much as the floor exercise. Here’s what makes her performance so special.
Biles’s third pass is superhuman
In the floor routine, there’s a guiding physical principle that governs which tricks happen where: Because gymnasts get tired, they don’t save the best for last. Thus, the first tumbling passes on the floor routine are usually the most difficult. A good example of this is Raisman’s monster first pass (a roundoff, 1.5 twisting layout, roundoff back handspring, tucked double Arabian, front somersault):
As gymnasts’ legs tire, the difficulty in their floor routines begins to decrease. And that’s where Biles is unlike any female gymnast on the planet.
Her third pass is a double twisting double back, which is as hard as many gymnasts’ first pass:
She is doing this third, and better than her competitors. It’s testament to Biles's explosiveness and stamina that she throws this in during the second half of her program.
Biles’s first two passes are incredible too
Though it’s Biles’s third pass that sets her apart and makes you question if she’s a superhuman gifted with endless endurance, her first two passes are magical too. They’re as textbook in the air as they are powerful.
Biles’s first pass is a double twisting layout. Look at how high she gets and how extended her stretch is during the layout and the twist:
Then she follows up with a second, similar pass. The two layouts are there, but there’s a last-second half-twist. Because Biles landed this in competition, it was named after her:
Look at how high she gets, and how high she keeps going when the second layout happens. If there’s a knock on Biles, it’s that she has a tendency to cross her toes on her twists, but that’s nitpicking when it comes to a pass this massive.
Biles’s excellence on floor is how she can beat a stellar routine from Raisman with around four-tenths of a point to spare. It’s why she’s the best female gymnast on the planet and has been for the past three years. And it’s how she won herself another gold medal.
Because of NBC's strict policy against GIFs and video from Olympics, I made GIFs from video of Simone Biles and Aly Raisman's Olympic tuneup events. They showcase the same moves and tumbling passes they performed in the Olympics. The gymnastics floor final will air on tape delay tonight in primetime.