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An all-around champion

Simone Biles is officially one of the world’s most wondrous athletes –no ifs, ands or buts about it


Simone Biles already owned three consecutive world titles and four U.S. national championships before she arrived in Rio. At 19, she already has a floor exercise move named after her that no other women in the world can throw, the surest sign in gymnastics that you’re a sport-changing force. Former Olympic all-around champion Mary Lou Retton long ago called Biles the greatest female gymnast she has ever seen. Others have echoed the talk. But as Biles’ coach Aimee Boorman noted Thursday, “A lot of people said she wouldn’t be the greatest of all time until she wins the Olympic all-around.”

“So-o-o-o,” Boorman laughed and held out a hand, “Mic drop!”

Biles was once again at her unparalleled best at the Rio Summer Games on Thursday with a winning score of 62.198 that left her a gaping two points clear of fellow American Aly Raisman, and nearly four points ahead of bronze medalist Aliya Mustafina of Russia.

She finally, officially, conclusively, irreversibly placed herself in the conversation with Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt as one of the top five or six most wondrous athletes in the world right now. There’s no need to limit it to only who’s in attendance at these Rio Summer Games.

Here’s the other thing: Even though it was a victory that had been long predicted — “For, like, years,” Raisman, a two-time Olympian, said with a laugh — the story of how Biles arrived at this moment and delivered on it is hardly routine or stripped of wonder.

Her win felt drama-free or boring only if you don’t like to watch a virtuoso performer stretching ideas of what’s possible, or see a great creation story come to fruition.

“I think if you ask any of the all-arounders that won the gold medal,” Biles said, “it’s everything they dreamed of since they were a little girl. But I think mine is a little different.”

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