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Simone Biles Becomes First Woman To Land Triple-Double In Competition


Last night in Kansas City, gymnast Simone Biles had, as one commenter on Twitter put it, a quiet talk with gravity. Biles landed a triple twisting double flip, what's known as a triple-double, and it's the first time a woman has done so in competition. Among those watching Simone Biles make history yesterday was NBC Sports reporter Nick Zaccardi. He joins us now.

Hey, Nick.

NICK ZACCARDI: Thank you for having me on.

KELLY: I feel like we should begin by noting - when we say she landed it, I mean, it looked pretty perfect. I've had it on repeat on my computer (laughter) all morning. She was beautiful.

ZACCARDI: It was the epitome of what Simone Biles is - the height, the power and the clean execution. There's nobody else that can do that skill at all and, certainly, nobody that can do it with that sort of precision if they tried.

KELLY: And just explain briefly for the laypeople out here. What is a triple-double? What exactly is it that she managed to do yesterday?

ZACCARDI: She's basically tumbling up into the air. And in the air, before coming down, she is doing three twists while flipping over twice. So that's what the name triple-double comes from. No other woman has done it. Some men have done it but very few.

KELLY: She's obviously an incredible role model for younger gymnasts coming up behind her. In competition, she's also been outspoken and public about being a survivor of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor who's now behind bars for sexual assault. She has been vocal about criticizing USA Gymnastics for the way they handled that and other things. I mean, speak a little bit about just what her role is in the sport beyond whatever - you know, beyond this incredible achievement on the floor yesterday.

ZACCARDI: That's what, I think, makes this comeback for Simone so special - is that she's not only shown that she has better gymnastic skills than she did before, but she is coming back at a time where there is so many troubles associated with her sport. And you mentioned the Larry Nassar scandal and everything that has happened with USA Gymnastics. She has taken that head-on.

She came forward as a Nassar survivor in January 2018. And she's only, since then in interviews, spoken up and spoken loudly in criticizing USA Gymnastics' shortcomings with all their leadership changes. She's been tearful about it, about how everything's affected her and how she goes to, you know, get checkups with physicians or physical therapists, and she's still, you know, a little hesitant, which, obviously, you can imagine. And to deal with all that at 22 years old and still go out and dominate more than ever before, it just speaks to her mental resolve.

KELLY: Wow. So I mean, what are you looking for? Is it too early to start laying bets on what might happen in 2020 in Tokyo?

ZACCARDI: I mean, she's more dominant over the United States field and the world field now than she was at this point in the last Olympic cycle, when we were one year before Rio. After taking a year off to be able to get back to a level better than you were before at an age where gymnasts are usually deteriorating - at this point, she's a favorite for not only one or two gold medals but four or five. She won four in Rio. I think she can win five.

KELLY: Thank you, Nick.

ZACCARDI: Thank you very much.


ICE CUBE: (Rapping) Get me on the court and I'm trouble. Last week, messed around and got a triple-double. I got to say it was a good day.

KELLY: That conversation was with Nick Zaccardi with NBC Sports. He was there last night when Simone Biles nailed the triple-double - the first woman to do so in competition. And, Ailsa, I should just mention as an aside, she also managed to win her sixth all-around U.S. Gymnastics Championship.


Her sixth? Wow...

KELLY: Her sixth, I know.

CHANG: I love how that's just a - oh, by the way, this other thing happened.

KELLY: And I'm still watching it on repeat, by the way. It's going on on my screen now.

(LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.