ANTWERP, Belgium (AP) - Simone Biles was not too worried about the medal count, or the color of the medals, at the gymnastics world championships this week.
That approach has sure paid off.
The American superstar claimed a third, then a fourth, gold medal on the final day of the 2023 competition on Sunday, winning the women’s balance beam and floor finals in a dominant fashion.
In Antwerp — where she started her collection of 23 world titles 10 years ago as a 16-year-old — Biles has made a stunning return to the international stage. In addition to the pair of gold medals she won Sunday, she also claimed a silver medal on vault after the sixth all-around title that made her the most decorated gymnast in history, male or female.
And, in the absence of Russian rivals because of sanctions imposed as a result of the war against Ukraine, Biles led the U.S. women to a record seventh straight victory in the team event.
"It’s like as long as I get out there, do those routines again, like it’s a win in my book," the four-time Olympic gold medalist said about how she approached the meet. "It doesn’t matter if I end up on the podium or not."
Biles was competing at her first world championships since 2019 after a two-year break she used to focus on her mental health following the Tokyo Olympics. She only returned to competition this summer.
Biles was a bit worried on her comeback to the world stage, but the confidence of having trained properly combined with what she called her new "whatever happens, happens" attitude helped her back to the top and demolish the competition.
She will keep the same laid-back attitude on the road leading to the Paris Olympics next year.
"I think we’re going to take that approach, the same one that we took this year, just meet by meet and we’ll see where we end up," said Biles, who applies herself to regular therapy sessions that helped her in her comeback.
Her coach, Cecile Landi, said Biles doesn't want to speak in detail about the Olympics yet to protect herself and avoid the pressure.
"But for us as coaches it's obviously the goal," Landi said. "And we will get her ready for that, if she wants it."
At the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics, Biles was hampered by what's known as "the twisties" that gymnasts can experience while in the air, and withdrew from several events.
"I think I worried a little bit more about ending up on the podium and now I’m just like, I don’t care," she said when asked how she now deals with pressure.
Biles has now won a record 37 medals at the world championships and Olympics.
On Sunday, she started the afternoon with a superb beam routine, oozing confidence throughout. She had no hesitation on her jumps and delivered controlled spins before dismounting in style, with just a small hop when landing. She earned a score of 14.800 points to win ahead of China’s Zhou Yaqin by a margin of just 0.1 of a point. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil took the bronze medal.
Biles later took to the mat for her last appearance of a busy week, in the floor final. She had posted the highest score in qualifying and impressed again with a series of spectacular tumbling passes that wowed the crowd, reaching impressive height on her leaps.
Although she stepped out of bounds midway through her highly difficult routine, Biles earned the day’s best score, 14.633 points. It was Biles' sixth world floor championship, a discipline where she remains undefeated.
Andrade, another star of the sport, took the silver medal ahead of her Brazil teammate Flavia Saraiva.
In the men’s competition, Daiki Hashimoto of Japan — who earlier this week became the first athlete to win back-to-back world all-around titles in eight years — won the horizontal bar final with 15.233 points. Tin Srbic of Croatia trailed 0.533 points behind in second place, with China's Su Weide completing the podium
Jake Jarman gave Britain its first medal by taking gold in the vault with a combined score of 15.050 points. Jarman started with a nearly flawless vault and was pumped after he landed a Dragulescu on his second effort, giving a big hug to his coach and raising his arms in triumph.
His total allowed him to leapfrog American Khoi Young by a margin of 0.201.
Young’s pair of vaults earned him a runner-up finish and a third medal this week to go with the bronze in the team event and silver on the pommel horse. Nazar Chepurnyi of Ukraine finished third.
Young grinned broadly after sticking his second vault and turned toward fans waving American flags, urging them to make more noise as cheers and applause erupted from the stands at the Sportpaleis venue.
Lukas Dauser of Germany took gold in the men’s parallel bars with a huge 15.400, finishing ahead of China’s Shi Cong and Kaito Sugimoto of Japan.