Olympics

Simone Biles leads after the first day of women’s U.S. Gymnastics nationals in KC

Simone Biles discusses Day 1 of the women’s gymnastics national championships

Simone Biles, an Olympic gymnast, discusses how she grabbed the lead in the women’s field of the U.S. Gymnastics national finals on first day.
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Simone Biles, an Olympic gymnast, discusses how she grabbed the lead in the women’s field of the U.S. Gymnastics national finals on first day.

Simone Biles would like to remind you that she is the greatest when it comes to gymnastics, and to do that, she rocked a leotard bedazzled with a goat — Greatest Of All Time — on Wednesday’s training session ahead of this weekend’s U.S. Gymnastics national championships.

When the women’s portion of the meet began Friday night at Sprint Center, It was Biles’ performance that made the statement.

Biles used her 58.650 all-around score to race atop the leaderboard on the first day of the women’s competition.

“I feel like I compete for perfection,” Biles said, “so whenever I don’t do that, it just really irritates me.”

The rest of the top five looks like this: Sunisa Lee is in second place with an all-around score of 56.900, Jade Carey is third at 56.100, Riley McCusker is fourth at 55.700 and Overland Park, Kansas, native Leanne Wong is tied for fifth, with Trinity Thomas, at 55.400.

The second and final day of the men’s competition will kick off Saturday, with juniors starting at 1 p.m. and the regular men’s field at 6:30 p.m.

In Friday afternoon’s junior session, West Virginia native Konnor McClain had an all-around score of 56.500 and had the lead after the first day of the women’s competition.

By now, you know the skinny on Biles: She’s the 2016 Olympic individual all-around, vault and floor gold medalist, and balance beam bronze medalist. She’s a four-time world all-around champion, four-time world floor exercise champion, two-time world balance beam champion, the 2018 world vault champion and a five-time United States nationals all-around champion.

What makes these national championships special to Biles, though, is that she’s still chasing another record. She’s trying to become just the second woman — ever — to win six U.S. all-around titles.

It’s also worth noting that Biles is blazing a new path in her efforts to do so. On Friday night, she unveiled a new stunt no other gymnast has dared try: a triple-double, which means two flips and three twists, in the floor exercise.

When she completed the event, she seemed far from content — her unamused facial expression gave that much away — but her score suggested just the opposite: 14.350, tops among the women.

“It was too much,” Biles said, “and for the triple-double, you kind of need to lean back a little bit more, and I kind of went straight up and straight down, so that forced me to — I don’t even know what it looked like, to be honest. I need to watch the video. But I think that’s why I did that.”

The meet also meant a homecoming for three local gymnasts: Grain Valley’s Kara Eaker, Lee’s Summit’s Aleah Finnegan and Wong, a trio who said earlier this week that they saw this meet as an opportunity to show those from home that they do more than just back flips.

On Friday, they did lots more. Wong led that group with an all-around score of 55.400, tying for fifth place. Eaker is slotted in 11th, totaling an all-around score of 54.650. Finnegan is 14th at 53.250.

“I had some little shakes here and there, I guess you could say,” Finnegan said, “but overall, I’m pretty proud of how I did. I’m loving this crowd, and all my teammates cheering.”

The group is fresh off the the Pan American Games in Peru, where Eaker secured a gold medal on the balance beam and silver in floor exercise, and Wong brought home a silver medal in uneven bars. An injury held Finnegan out of the vault final.

For Biles’ part, perhaps this will do well to help summarize her Friday performance and superstar talent: On the uneven bars, which Biles admits to disliking, she tied for fourth with a score of 14.050.

Still, when she completed the routine, TV cameras caught her swearing.

She was that displeased with her outing — which helped her win the day of competition.

“I recognize that I did a bad routine,” Biles said. “The emotions are real. They’re raw. I feel like it’s OK to show that. Should I curse? No, I probably shouldn’t have done that. But it’s real. It’s what I felt in that moment.”

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