(Editors’ note: The following column originally appeared in the Star-Telegram on March 7, 2015. Gold medal gymnast Simone Biles of Spring appeared at AT&T Stadium and was the runaway winner of the AT&T American Cup competition. We are reprinting Gil LeBreton’s column here to help you better get to know the favorite to win the gold medal in the women’s all-around at the Rio Olympics).
On Friday night it was the Nastia Liukin Cup, named after Parker’s most golden gymnast, with some of the nation’s best junior athletes competing for trophies.
But on Saturday, make no mistake – this was the Simone Biles Cup.
Officially, true, the event was named the AT&T American Cup, and it featured an international field of nine men and nine women, all with world-class gymnastics credentials.
But it took less than 15 minutes Saturday for Biles to put her name on this one. The two-time reigning world all-around champion, who lives in the Houston suburb of Spring, started with a 16.033 score on the vault and then twirled and somersaulted and wowed her way to an ever-widening lead.
Biles’ final score on the four events was 62.299. Second-place Mykala Skinner finished with 57.832 To put it in the local vernacular, Biles won by about six touchdowns.
The men’s competition was won by Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev, with Ryohei Kato of Japan finishing second and Donnell Whittenburg of Baltimore third.
Verniaiev powered into the men’s lead on the fifth of the day’s six events – on his specialty, the parallel bars -- and ended up winning by less than a half point, which is how most world-class gymnastics meets tend to go.
Not this one, though. Not with Biles stealing the show in the four women’s events.
With the Rio Olympics less than 18 months away, the teenager – she turns 18 next week – is poised to follow in the golden footsteps of U.S. all-around champions Liukin, Carly Patterson, Gabby Douglas and Mary Lou Retton.
She is that good. In truth, pound for pound – Biles might weigh 95 of them, at the most – the United States may not have a surer bet for a gold medal in 2016.
But shhh – don’t let Biles’ coach, Aimee Boorman, hear you repeating that.
"We don’t talk about the Olympics," Boorman said, politely but firmly. "We don’t even think that far ahead.
"What we are is ‘in training to try to make the Olympic team.’"
At World Champions Centre in Spring, where Boorman pushes Biles, there are no Olympic posters on the walls, as at many other gyms. No Olympic flags, no photos of past Olympic champions.
"But that’s because they’ve had lot of Olympians," Boorman said. "We don’t have any yet."
OK, whatever. But no other current gymnast won back-to-back world all-around championships in 2013 and 2014, as Biles did. No other American woman has won six gold medals in individual and team events at the world championships. And no woman in history had won four golds at one world championship since the legendary Ludmilla Tourischeva did 40 years ago.
That’s the kind of Olympic company that Biles is threatening to keep.
After the competition Saturday, Biles was asked how much better can she get between now and the Rio Games?
"I’m not sure," she answered humbly. "Maybe my coach should say that."
Biles’ day began with a vault that dazzled the audience with its height, its hang time and its precision landing. The judges rightly awarded her a 16.033, the highest score of any competitor in any event all day.
Only on the balance beam did Biles even suggest that she was less than perfect. She wobbled, ever so briefly, after making a layout aerial cartwheel and then had a small hop on her dismount.
"I tweaked my back a little bit, and I thought, ‘Oh, I can’t breathe,’" Biles said, though unalarmed. "It was just a brief thing.
"I was pretty disappointed in my beam, because I train so much better."
But she more than made up for it with the event’s highest score, 16.000, on floor.
Her big goals in this early gymnastics season, Biles said, are "consistency and just proving to myself that I can be consistent."
She said nothing, however, about the 2016 Olympics. Boorman has somehow managed to keep the world’s best gymnast patient.
"If it happens, it happens," Boorman said of the gold medal possibilities that lay ahead.
"We think about tomorrow. That’s as far ahead as we look."
OK, whatever. But back at the gym, the coach is about to lose a lot of wall space.