RIO DE JANEIRO — Simone Biles found herself in the most rare of positions — trailing in a gymnastics meet.
After two rotations here in the Olympic women’s all-around, Russia’s Aliya Mustafina had seized a small lead (0.034), mainly thanks to a strong performance on her best event, uneven bars. Still, the American rarely plays from behind and this was the biggest stage in all of gymnastics.
As Biles stood in front of the balance beam, the third event, three of her American teammates seated just above in the stands of Rio Olympic Arena shouted encouragement. Biles nodded her head and smiled at her own personal cheering section of Laurie Hernandez, Madison Kocian and Gabby Douglas.
[Slideshow: Gold medal winners from Day 6]
Simone wanted them to know she had this. And then she did, retaking the lead on beam and then putting it away on floor to take all-around gold in commanding fashion with a total score of 62.198.
The margin of 2.100 is the highest ever under the current scoring system in major world competition. It bested a 1.25 gap from American Shawn Johnson at the 2007 world championships and a 0.6 advantage at the 2008 Olympics by Nastia Liukin of the United States.
Fellow American Aly Raisman (60.098) won silver thanks to strong performances on the beam and, in particular, the floor. It was a sweet second place for Raisman, a 22-year-old from Needham, Mass., who finished tied with Mustafina for third at the 2012 Olympics only to lose out via tiebreaker.
Raisman returned to the Olympics for just this reason and managed to come from behind on the final two apparatuses to edge Mustafina in a rematch. Raisman broke down in tears of joy and satisfaction when she completed a high-flying floor routine that easily assured silver.
The Russian took home the bronze, with a score of 58.665.
The story of the day and year, however, remains the incomparable Biles.
The 19-year-old from Spring, Texas, was her typically brilliant self here Thursday, cementing what has been clear for years now that she is the best gymnast in the world and arguably the greatest of all time. She was driven by her typical combination of higher degrees of difficulty with near flawless execution.
Biles has also won three consecutive all-around world championships. This represents her 12th gold in either the Olympics or World Championships, with more golds possible during the Rio Games.
Biles is favored to win gold in three individual apparatuses – vault, beam and floor (she is not competing in uneven bars). If she wins out and adds that to the team gold the U.S. won Tuesday and this all-around championship, she will become the first gymnast to ever win five gold medals at a single Olympics. No one has won four since Vera Caslavska of then Czechoslovakia in 1968.
Biles scored 15.866 on vault, 14.966 on uneven bars, 15.433 on beam and 15.933 on floor, a rollicking, crowd- (and judge-) pleasing capper that assured the title. Biles was meet-best on vault, beam and floor.
Raisman, meanwhile, scored 15.633 on vault, 14.166 on bars, 14.866 on beam and 15.433 on floor. She will join Biles in competing for the individual gold in floor.