Simone Biles of the United States completed her amazing comeback after a two-year hiatus by winning her 21st world title with all-around gold at the World Gymnastics Championships on Friday.
Already a team gold medalist on Wednesday, the American scored 58.399 points to take the championship ahead of incumbent champion Rebeca Andrade of Brazil (56.766), with American teammate Shilese Jones claiming bronze (56.332).
Biles obtained the best score on three of the four apparatuses, with the uneven bars the exception.
It was the 27th time she has medalled at worlds and the 26-year-old gymnast was teary-eyed as she stood on the podium with her sixth all-around world crown.
“Actually, I had something in my eye today that I couldn’t get out, I swear it’s true,” she told reporters.
“But I was emotional, because 10 years ago I won my first worlds and now we’re back here,” said Biles of her return to Antwerp where she opened her world tally in 2013, winning four medals, including two golds.
“It means everything to me, after everything I’ve put in to get back to this place to feel comfortable and confident enough to compete.”
With two more days of competition left, everything points to her medal collection growing even further, since she still has four apparatus finals to compete in.
Biles has made an incredible recovery, two years after her episode of “twisties,” a brief mental block in which gymnasts lose their awareness of where they are in the air.
Biles, who arrived in Japan as the heavy favorite after winning four gold medals in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, broke down and withdrew from four of the five finals.
Back at the highest level, the 1.42m Texan is preparing for the Paris Olympics after taking time off to focus on her mental health.
“I was actually less nervous today,” said Biles.
“I was so much more nervous for team finals just because that’s when everything occurred (in Tokyo) so I was a bit traumatised from that, so today I felt a little bit more relaxed. I’m happy that’s over.”
‘She’s like wine, better with age’
“She still has difficulties, she’s not perfect,” said her coach, Frenchwoman Cecile Landi.
“(But) she proves to everyone that she can be better than before. She is like wine, she gets better with age.”
During qualifying last weekend, Biles became the first woman to accomplish a Yurchenko double pike vault, which now carries her moniker as the “Biles II.”
Spectators at Antwerp’s Sportpaleis saw another exceedingly rare incident on Friday when Biles tripped on the mat while preparing for a simple leap near the finish of her floor routine.
The incident, which elicited gasps from the audience and a smirk from the American, occurred with the gold effectively secured.
“I just tripped, clumsy,” she said.
“I’m like that outside of the gym, so I’m not surprised it happened.
“I felt like my legs were so heavy and I couldn’t pick them up.”
The podium was entirely composed of black gymnasts for the first time.
“We had a black podium of girls, so I thought that’s amazing: ‘Black girl magic!’,” she smiled.
“Hopefully it just teaches all the young girls out that you can do anything you put your mind to if you train hard.”
Biles’ 34 world and Olympic medals make her the most decorated gymnast in history.