It’s just too bad that the perfect 10 was abolished from gymnastics. It denied Simone Biles a chance to attain iconic status.
As the first gymnast to hit that magic number at the 1976 Olympic Games, Nadia Comaneci knows a thing or two about perfection and when she saw Biles nail her landings following each and every one of her sky-high tumbling passes in the Thursday’s all around final, only one number came to her head.
“She gets a 10 from me on the floor. Under the old system she probably would have got a 10,” Comaneci told Reuters.
While the scrapping of the 10.0 scoring system following a judging scandal at the 2004 Athens Olympics means gymnasts can no longer attain perfection — according to the judges anyway — to others, Biles could not have done anything more.
“I don’t think there will be another gymnast for a long time to come and do Simone’s difficulty on floor,” Comaneci said after studying replays of Biles’s routine.
“What she did was so much more difficult than what anyone else did. Floor is the event where she undeniably marks her superiority.”
Biles soared so high off the floor during her explosive tumbling passes which included her trademark double layout with half twist at the end that her score of 15.933 allowed her to blow away the opposition.
The teenager, who had already won a record three successive world all around titles before coming to Rio, bagged her first Olympic individual gold by a margin 2.100 points. It was the widest victory margin of her career.
While Biles has no equal among her contemporaries, Comaneci did say it was too soon to declare if Biles was the greatest of all time.
“She is so unique that she can beat everybody by two points,” added Comaneci. “This competition used to be really, really close.
“I’m an amazing fan and she’s an unbelievable Olympic champion but time will tell if she will become the greatest of all time as it’s too early to say that.”
To achieve that status, Comaneci felt that 19-year-old would need to win more golds, or even sustain her levels of excellence for another four-year cycle to emulate the feats of Russia’s Larisa Latynina (1956-60) and Czech Vera Caslavska (1964-68) and win back-to-back Olympic all around titles.
While more golds are likely to come over the next few days, with Biles on target to win five golds following her success in the team and all around final, the real test is likely to come post Rio and whether she has the hunger to prolong her career.
Her male counterpart, Japan’s Kohei Uchimura was hailed as “the greatest of all time” by Comaneci after he sustained his all around winning streak for eight years, winning Olympic golds in 2012 and 2016 in addition to a record six successive world titles.
While Biles became the first woman in 20 years to win back-to-back world and Olympic all around titles, Comaneci also felt the gap between the American and the rest of the world needs to narrow as otherwise boredom could drive her away from the sport.
“Winning the silver used to be the biggest failure and now whoever gets the silver is delighted because the gold belonged to Simone for a long time,” said the 54-year-old, who is the last woman to have won all around medals (gold in 1976 and silver in 1980) at successive Games.
“In gymnastics it’s very rare to see a world champion who goes on to become Olympic champion. A real champion is the one who can keep handling the pressure over and over again.”