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Simone Biles: Eighth U.S. Gymnastics title feels like ‘fever dream’

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Simone Biles’ return to gymnastics has made it seem like she never even left at all.

On Sunday, the 26-year-old won her unprecedented eighth U.S. all-around gymnastics title. She capped it off with what coach Laurent Landi called “the best floor routine I’ve ever seen her do.”

“Every time I come out here, I feel like I’m in a fever dream,” Biles said of the meet, her first major competition since her return. “I feel like nothing’s real. I knew I did a good floor routine, but as soon as I got off and saw the score, I was like, ‘Damn, I need to see that routine.’ Because I wasn’t sure.”

Through it all, Biles has made gymnastics look easy. She landed another Yurchenko double pike on Friday, continuing her reign as the only woman ever to so much as attempt it in competition. She earned a 9.8 execution score.

“It’s not normal. She is not normal,” Landi said.

And Biles is doing this all at the age of 26. In gymnastics terms, she is redefining what the sport can look like. Most gymnasts at 26 aren’t competing at their best, like Biles is.

She’s approaching the sport with a different mindset, choosing not to share her goals and instead to “be at peace” while taking it “one thing at a time.”

“I like to keep (my goals) personal, just so that I know what I’m aiming for,” Biles said. “I think it’s better that way. I’m trying to move a little bit differently this year than I have in the past. I think it’s working so far, so I’m going to keep it secretive.”

That peace will take her to the world championships next month, where she’ll attempt to add to her 25 world championship medals – 18 of which are gold. But for Biles, she’s just happy to be back in the thick of competition.

“I just didn’t think I was going to be back here competing,” she said. “I’m in the moment. But it doesn’t feel real for some reason. I just, seriously, can’t believe I’m out here competing again. I’m proud of myself for that.”