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Simone Biles wows at World Series with twisting backflip for first pitch

The greatest gymnast of all time adds to her legend and reflects on her career

10:29 AMThe last time Simone Biles threw a pitch at a Houston Astros game, she was a gold medal Olympic athlete, but had yet to have the most epic year in gymnastics history. She hadn’t yet passed a kidney stone and helped the United States to a world championship. Her spin on Dancing with the Stars hadn’t yet materialized and the vault that changed the sport was not yet named after her.

Biles also had not yet revealed to the world that she too was a victim of Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics national team doctor and convicted child molester.

Fast-forward three years-plus from that Fourth of July moment in which she did a side aerial flip to Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park, and she’s talking about how her life has changed from just being a famous Olympian to a mega superstar.

“It’s definitely different than a couple of years ago,” Biles said, rocking an orange Astros jersey. “Everywhere I go, someone notices me or recognizes me, so it’s a little bit harder to go out and about by myself, but obviously I’m still a normal person. So I don’t have security or anything following me anywhere I go.”

Her squad definitely rolls deep. When she pulled up to the field, she did so with a throng of family, all wearing Biles jerseys in support. Before throwing out the first pitch, she took a picture with her girls, sitting on a World Series mat. It was a hectic scene, but there in the middle of all that, they got their glamour shot.

“The dynamic is amazing. They’ve been through it all since the beginning, so it’s a learning process for all of us, not just me,” she said, regarding her support system. “So if we ever want to go to a function, obviously that’s when I need a little bit of help or security. But we’ve gone through it together and I think it’s helped a lot.”

Then, she turned a back flip on the mound — with a twist — and threw out a pitch. The internet was impressed, as was the crowd.

There’s something about the presence of not just an elite athlete, but one who’s legitimately altered the course of her sport in many ways that is different from the average traditional sports interaction. Biles is confident, but also highly self-aware of her own importance and impact.

After all, she’s been called the greatest gymnast of all time, but the gatekeepers of her own sport are hating on her and masking it behind the veneer of safety. Similar treatment was given to figure skater Surya Bonaly. We know why.

“It’s a little bit disappointing just because we’ve worked so hard on that move and I think a lot of people at World Championships came out to see that move,” Biles explained matter-of-factly. “But then, the value it was given we didn’t think was enough. So it’s not even worth trying, because there is a danger in doing it. So it’s a little bit disappointing. So it got named after me, so at least it’s in the books forever.”

It’s easy to forget that Biles is just 22 years old. Her life story is so well-known and her moments in the spotlight have been so intense that you’re reminded that life experience has a lot less to do with age than people like to believe. But when it comes to actual gymnastics, she is getting up there. Because the sport is one that encourages the hurtling of small girls through the air, by the time an athlete reaches legal American drinking age, she’s basically considered washed up.

What that means for the 2020 Summer Games, we don’t know. While Biles doesn’t seem like the type whose athletic career will be the end of her run, it doesn’t mean she isn’t thinking about the end, though.

“It is kind of crazy. I feel like I’m aging a little bit in our sport, because our sport is a little bit of a younger one. So me being 22, it’s kind of old,” Biles said Wednesday. “I’m a grandma in this sport, so we’ll see what comes with it going forward. But it’s neat that we’re breaking the boundaries and the barriers, especially being so old now. Right now I feel like we’re kind of at the peak of our sport with setting boundaries and I know our team specifically this year, we had a lot of strength going into World Championships, so I’m excited to carry that through to an Olympic year.”