RIO DE JANEIRO — So this is what it’s like to finally see Simone Biles Unplugged. She has always shown off a wry sense of humor, but she can finally see the finish line at the 2016 Rio Olympics now that she is just about done delivering on every bit of the extraordinary hype that preceded her. And she’s starting to extrapolate a little more on her answers, loosen up, crack a few jokes and banter with everyone around her.
She’s even finally consenting to answer the previously off-limit topics like whether her amazing feats ever impress her?
“Yes, sometimes,” Biles admitted. “If I’m lying in bed, I’m impressed with myself. Or I woke up the other morning, and [teammate] Laurie Hernandez said, ‘Hey, Simone. You did it! You really won! And I’m like, ‘Oh, yes I did.’ So that was very cool.”
Biles went on to note she has been surprised at the weight of the three gold medals she’s now won — “Much heavier than I thought” — but that she and teammate Aly Raisman had already decided not to wear the first two medals they won here at the same time after they did so to oblige a TV interview, and Biles discovered when they hit together and “scratched the paint” on the gold.
Even in Rio, where the diving pool turns green and the golf course is dotted by grazing while capybaras (think guinea pigs on steroids), it’s not likely the medals are spray painted gold rather than real gold. But Biles blithely kept going, touching on another previously verboten topic — what she wants to do in the future — by confirming yes, she’d love a shot at being on “Dancing with Stars” when she gets back home “even though I can’t dance.”
She also shared her personal policy on dealing with outside criticism from fans and the media: “I don’t kinda listen to what people say sometimes if I don’t like it.”
It’s probably not a coincidence that Biles would pick now to finally allow a little more of a peek behind the curtain about what she’s been feeling.
Sunday, she knocked down two more of her pre-Olympic goals in one fell swoop when the individual apparatus medal events began with women’s bars and vault.
Though Biles is making just her first Olympic appearance, she bypassed fellow American Shannon Miller as the most decorated gymnast of all-time Sunday while becoming the first American woman ever to capture the Olympic vault individual gold medal. Her winning score of 15.900 that easily outdistanced Russia’s Maria Paseka (15.253) and Germany’s Guilia Steinbruber (15.216).
Biles now has 17 world or Olympic medals and she is only 19.
She only rolled her eyes afterward when asked if she could imagine still doing gymnastics at age 41, the same age as Uzbehkistan’s Oksana Chusovitina, one of her vault rivals Sunday.
“It’s amazing that she’s still going and she’s so strong at what she does, but I can’t even — no. I couldn’t do that at 41 — no,” Biles said, waggin’er her head.
How about 31? “No. Stop,” Biles added.
Well then what about 23 — the age she’ll be when the next Summer Games roll around in Tokyo? “Well, that might be bearable,” Biles allowed, noting Raisman is 22, “and we’ve all seen what she does at this age.”
Madison Kocian and Gabby Douglas also competed Sunday. They were in the individual final on the uneven bars. While Douglas lost her medal chance with a slight break on her opening handstand that sent her freefalling to seventh place, Kocian, a defending world co-champ in the event, did a terrific set but lost by .067 points to Aliya Mustafina of Russia.
A few members of the American team were shown on the arena scoreboard sitting on the edges of their seat in the stands, looking excited, thinking Kocian had won — then flying backwards in surprise when she had not.
But Kocian insisted she was satisfied.
“I’m happy with how I performed,” she said, noting the difference might have been the start value (or degree of difficulty) of Mustafina’s set was 1/10th higher than hers.
Biles’ vault win was her third gold medal in as many events here in Rio, another record total for an American. It complemented the medals she picked up earlier in the individual all-around and team competitions. And she’s not done yet. She has a chance to go five-for-five if she can win the individual beam and floor exercise events when the gymnastics competition closes out over the next two days. She has the best qualifying scores in both events.
After that? Biles has already said she wants to have a team pizza party and binge a little. And her coach, Aimee Boorman, has said Biles is looking forward to getting out and having some fun at these Games.
“Not that gymnastics isn’t fun, but she wants to have ‘normal people fun,’ ” Boorman said, agreeing that Biles has no idea what a sensation she’s become beyond Rio, especially back in the U.S.
“I don’t think she understands the explosion,” Boorman said. “We’re all in this Olympic bubble and they’re kind of like, `Oh, this is fun. We’re winning medals!’ When we get home, they have no idea what’s to come.”
Biles insists she doesn’t spend a lot time thinking about it.
“I’m just Biles,” she says.
But here’s a hint for her: She’s not the only one who’s impressed.