Gymnastics queen Simone Biles crowned national champ for 7th time in thrilling Fort Worth competition
Before an adoring crowed that cheered her every stunt and television cameras that followed her every move, Simone Biles vaulted, flipped, and stuck the landing on a record seventh national title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships at Fort Worth's Dickies Arena on June 6.
Next come the Olympic Trials (June 24-27 in St. Louis, Missouri) for Biles and 17 American gymnasts who competed in the two-day Fort Worth event and were named to the U.S. National Team at the end. They are: silver medalist Suni Lee, bronze medalist Jordan Chiles, Emma Malabuyo (4th), Leanne Wong (5th), Jade Carey (6th), Grace McCallum (7th tie), Skye Blakely (7th tie), Kayla DiCello, Amari Drayton, Kara Eaker, Addison Fatta, Shilese Jones, Emily Lee, Riley McCusker, Zoe Miller, Ava Siegfeldt, and MyKayla Skinner.
Besides Biles — who is a lock for the Tokyo Olympics next month — just five more gymnasts will make the team.
Biles finished almost five points ahead of Lee to win the all-around gold, but she only won gold on three of the four individual events — vault, balance beam, and floor exercise — placing third on uneven bars behind Lee and McCusker.
During the awards ceremony Sunday night, Biles would exit the stage, take one medal off, place it in a bowl, put the next medal over her head, and walk back on stage to ascend the next podium. She also was named USA Gymnastics' Athlete of the Year (as voted on by her peers), and her coach Laurent Landi won Coach of the Year.
As a fun little nod to Fort Worth as the host city, the women who made the national team came onto stage wearing cowboy hats at the end, waving them as their names were called.
"Hats off Fort Worth, heading back home feeling grateful, supported and excited. Olympic Trials up next," Biles posted on Instagram.
Fans filled the lower level of Dickies Arena, some holding homemade signs that said things like, "Drove 200 miles to see Biles." But the 24-year-old from Spring, Texas wasn't the only one getting squeals of excitement from the crowd.
Former Olympian Chelsie Memmel, who, at age 32 decided to mount a comeback, earned big cheers each time she performed. The audience included her husband and two kids, as well as fans wearing T-shirts and holding signs that read, "Chell Yeah."
Two gymnasts with local roots — Blakely, of Frisco, and Malabuyo, of Flower Mound — also had dedicated cheering sections.
The disappointment of the weekend was that Laurie Hernandez, part of the 2016 Rio Olympics team (and Dancing with the Stars champ) was unable to compete after injuring her knee in warmups Friday. Fans inside the arena finally got to see her Sunday night when she accepted an award for Sportswoman of the Year.
But in the end, it was Biles who was the star of the show. She has now won every all-around competition she's entered since 2013 and more U.S. senior titles than any other woman in history. She's earned the rhinestone goat-emblazoned leotards she wore throughout the weekend. She's the G.O.A.T.
"She was previously tied for six (senior nationals) with Clara Schroth Lomady, whose were won between 1945 and 1952 when the AAU was the sport’s national governing body. Biles is now tied with Alfred Jochim (1925-1930; 1933) for most by any American," NBC says.
Now it's onto the Olympics, where she will surely add more jewels to her crown.
Biles will return to Fort Worth in October on the "Gold Over America" tour. Tickets go on sale June 11.