Simone Biles is inspiring in her unapologetic brilliance

·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·4-min read
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Because I can.

Simone Biles may be all of 4-foot-8, but she will not shrink herself nor her abilities or achievements. 

Not for the International Gymnastics Federation, not for USA Gymnastics, and certainly not for the antiquated idea that women are supposed to be quiet, demure, resistant to shining a light on their own greatness.

On Saturday in Indianapolis, in her first competition in 18 months, the five-time all-around world champion and two-time Olympics all-around gold medalist unveiled yet another move that no other woman has done before, this time a Yurchenko double pike on the vault. She'd hinted on social media that she was practicing it, and on Friday she nailed it during her in-arena practice.

That video went viral.

And then on Saturday she pulled it off, sprinting down the runway, rounding off onto the springboard, doing a backflip onto the vault table and launching herself high enough to complete two rotations of a pike, her body folded fully in half. Being the competitor she is, she was likely frustrated with herself because she actually over-rotated and had to take a big hop backward on landing to stop her momentum.

It was of no matter to the small crowd on hand, which shouted encouragement on her approach and went crazy when she finished the move.

Despite the hop, Biles received a score of 16.100, by far the highest for the apparatus at the U.S. Classic meet.

It wasn't as high as it could have been. Whether it's because it wants to discourage other gymnasts from attempting her moves or just reluctance to embrace the way the sport is evolving, the International Gymnastics Federation or FIG, which sets the starting score for all moves, undervalued Biles' vault. It's not the first time it has undervalued one of her extraordinary, incapable-of-being-done-by-others gymnastics moves.

Simone Biles lands the Yurchenko double pike while competing on the vault during the 2021 GK U.S. Classic gymnastics competition at the Indiana Convention Center. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Simone Biles lands the Yurchenko double pike while competing on the vault during the 2021 GK U.S. Classic gymnastics competition at the Indiana Convention Center. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

If other gymnasts can't do what Biles is doing, that's not her issue. She should get the full value for her brilliance.

She said as much Saturday, intimating that the federation doesn't want her winning by too much, so it intentionally underscores her (the starting score is added to judges' execution score, which has a maximum of 10.0; thus Biles' 16.100 came from adding a 9.500 execution to the 6.6 value given to the Yurchenko double pike); she believes this is the case for the double-twisting, double-tuck balance beam dismount she debuted in 2019 as well. 

Asked why Biles does the moves despite not getting as much credit in the scorebook as she should, she responded, "because I can."

Those three powerful words.

Yes, Biles is sending a message to FIG: she won't do less because it can't catch up to her superiority.

But she's also sending a message to girls and women everywhere to fully embrace their power, to use their voice, something Biles has done with increasing frequency over the past few years. We do not need to keep our achievements quiet, lest we offend anyone. We do not need to apologize for our talents. 

Being an athlete is about getting better. That's why so many of us love it. Even a casual runner will proudly announce their new personal-best 5K time to friends and family. A young hockey player will spend hours in the driveway shooting at his training net, sharpening his shot, the garage door behind pocked by misses. Peruse any story about a freshly minted NFL draft pick and you'll see a high school coach praising the player's work ethic, how hard he worked in pursuit of his dream.

Biles could play by FIG's rules and do the moves everyone else can do and still do them far better, but that's not challenging to her. Even as the most decorated gymnast ever, she is pushing to do more.

Because I can.

As she navigated the four-event apparatus Saturday, Biles was wearing a white leotard decorated with deep pink, orange and purple rhinestones. On its back, where the rays of sparkly stones met was a silver goat, a not-so-subtle acknowledgement that she knows what the rest of us know: she is the sport's GOAT.

Had she been asked why she had that touch added, whether the competition she routinely leaves in her wake — she has won every competition she has entered since the 2013 U.S. Championships — and the rest of us earth-bound mortals need to be reminded of her status in gymnastics, she certainly would have had her answer at the ready.

Because I can.

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