The day after Dateline aired an hour long investigation in USA Gymnastics’ handling of sex abuse allegations and Larry Nassar—with interviews with McKayla Maroney and Martha and Bela Karolyi—USA Gymnastics released a feel-good seven-minute video about Simone Biles’s comeback.
In it, Biles discussed her time off from the sport—all of the traveling she did, the vacations she went on—and her return to full-time training with new coaches, Laurent Landi and Cecile Canqueteau-Landi. But the most interesting part of the video was seeing more footage of Biles back in training.
Biles’s strategy in Rio was to play it safe—well, safe for her. With the exception of an upgraded second vault, which she needed to take the title there—at the world championships from 2013-2015 she earned two silvers and a bronze on the event due to the lower difficulty of her second vault—Biles didn’t introduce any other new skills during the Olympic year. She already had more than enough to win everything else. (Except for bars, her only weak event.)
Now that Biles won basically every possible title except for the gold on beam—she grabbed the beam on a front tuck and ended up with the bronze—she seems ready to play with new elements again. The video featured a bevy of new skills. She’s training a triple twisting Yurchenko on vault. (That’s a half twist upgrade on the one she did in Rio.)
On floor, she’s training this crazy pass.
And on beam, Biles is doing a double twisting double somersault dismount.
Not all of these elements are totally new for Biles. The gymnast has trained the triple twisting vault in the past but never brought it to competition. And in 2013, video of Biles performing the double double off the balance beam was posted to Youtube by her former coach, Aimee Boorman. But when I spoke to Boorman about this skill in the past, she made it clear that we wouldn’t be seeing it competition. It was just for fun, just for the challenge of it so Biles wouldn’t get bored.
But in the just-released video, Biles can be seen doing that crazy dismount pass twice. It doesn’t seem like she’s just playing around with it anymore.
It’s hard to know what exactly we’ll see in Biles’s first competitive routines since Rio. It’s one thing to do crazy skills singly in practice; it’s quite another to do them in routines jammed with other elements on harder competition surfaces and under pressure. Skills that you intend to compete have to be trained on a regular basis. You can’t just toss them out every once in awhile and expect to hit them consistently in competition.
If Biles does even half of the new skills we saw in the video, she should retake her “best in the world” title with little trouble.