© John Cheng

By Blythe Lawrence

STUTTGART — Four Olympic gold medals, 19 World titles and a record-breaking 25 World medals later, the woman considered the greatest gymnast of all time still gets butterflies right before she steps onto the competition floor.

“Sometimes I wish I would quit, because the other day we walked out there, and I was like, I literally hate this feeling and I don’t know why I keep forcing myself to do it,” Simone Biles commented after she, Jade Carey, Kara Eaker, Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallum secured the U.S. women their fifth-consecutive World team title Tuesday afternoon, two days before Biles’ individual encore gave her the World all-around title for the fifth time in six years and five days before she became the all-time World medal record-holder with 25 to her name, 19 of them gold.

“I hate that feeling like I’m going to puke before, but we love the thrill of it, so it reminds me never to give up,” Biles continued. “One day I won’t have the opportunity to get that feeling, so it just means the world that we have the opportunity.”

In what might be her final performance at a World Championships — Biles has said that she will retire after 2020 — the GOAT surpassed herself, tying and then breaking the medal record set by Vitaly Scherbo with her 23rd, 24th and 25th World medals, all of them gold, in event finals. In all, Biles added five of the six women’s World golds available in Stuttgart to her collection, a feat no woman has accomplished since Larisa Latynina in 1958.

The amount of gold mined by Biles at the 2019 World Championships — and the amount of history that comes with her results from the past week — is mind-boggling. After securing the team title, Biles breezed to the women’s all-around title Thursday, extending an undefeated run in the all-around that dates back to the 2013 American Cup, then turned around and won the World titles on vault, balance beam and floor exercise in event finals.

She also successfully competed two new elements that will bear her name in the Code of Points from now on: a triple twisting double tuck on floor exercise and a double twisting double tuck dismount off the balance beam. Add to that her largest margin of victory ever in a World all-around — 2.1 points — and a final gold medal routine that earned a whole point over second place on floor.

And that’s just at this Worlds. Biles has lit up every World Championships she’s competed in, providing a wealth of memorable moments on and off the competition floor. In 2013, she was a promising rookie who could tumble like a tornado, leading national team staff members to tell her she should have her own airline. That was the year The Biles I was born, a double layout half out tumbling pass that to that point had only been performed by men.

A year later, Biles was World all-around champion again, setting the internet aflame when a bee in her bouquet during the victory ceremony caused her to leap off the podium. In 2015 and 2016, she lived up to increasingly high expectations, becoming the first woman to win three consecutive World all-around titles and then capped things with Olympic gold.

In 2018, after a year away from the sport, she proved it was possible to return better than she had been before. At her “comeback” Worlds, Biles reigned once more in the all-around and became the first woman in three decades to medal in all six events, all while dealing with a kidney stone. In the press, she’s been called a phenomenon, a superhero, a once-in-a-century athlete. And through it all, she’s always come back and been even better, surprising even herself.

“I really don’t know how I do it sometimes,” Biles said. “Sometimes I wonder how I do it. I feel like it’s just like not me. I wish I could have an out-of-body experience to witness it because sometimes I think I’m going crazy.”

While she flies around superhero-style on the field of play, Biles is very human, coach Laurent Landi attests. “With big champions, it’s all in-between the ears, it’s nothing physical. I know we talk about the physical abilities, but without this,” he said, tapping his head, “she would not be capable of doing what she does.”

And if in some small corner of the world there was any doubt left that Biles is the greatest female gymnast ever to grace the world stage, her overall performance in Stuttgart should erase it. But that’s not the victory that she or Landi are happiest about.

“What I’m very proud of is the consistency in competition,” Landi said. “She has the belief. The only issue is sometimes in training when she’s tired, but in competition she now believes that she can make the routine anytime, so I’m very, very proud of her.”