Aug 21, 2014, 11:09 PM EST
PITTSBURGH – Simone Biles‘ coach has taught the gymnast not to look at her scores during competition.
“As time went on, I’ve just looked at them anyways,” Biles said. “It scares me if I don’t know my score.”
Biles didn’t need to look to know on the first night of the P&G Championships. She performed like the globe’s greatest gymnast.
The reigning World all-around champion took a whopping 3.15-point lead halfway through the U.S. all-around competition at Consol Energy Center. Biles, 17, can wrap up her second straight title Saturday night.
She notched the highest scores on balance beam (15.7, video), floor exercise (15.65, video) and vault (15.9, video) on Thursday. The short-but-powerful Texan wrapped her night with a 14.55 on uneven bars (video), her weakest event.
Biles’ all-around total is 61.8 points, 1.3 higher than her first-day total in 2013, when she entered the P&G Championships with little fanfare, coming off a horrendous warm-up meet two weeks earlier.
Maggie Nichols is a distant second with 58.65 points. Biles’ lead is comfortable, but consider Jordyn Wieber won the 2011 title by 6.15 points after two days.
Olympian Kyla Ross had the worst day of competition she could remember, falling on floor exercise and putting her knee down on her uneven bars dismount. Ross is in fourth place out of just eight all-around competitors.
“I don’t remember ever falling twice in a meet,” said Ross, who is 3.85 points behind.
Biles leads much more comfortably than at last year’s P&G Championships, where she edged Ross by .75 on the first day. Biles finished just .2 ahead of Ross after the final day.
“[Biles] is a year better trained, and she has more confidence,” said her coach, Aimee Boorman. “She has more experience under her belt. She went to World Championships last year and did her thing [becoming the third U.S. woman to ever win four medals at a Worlds].”
Biles received advice from the most important woman in U.S. gymnastics before competing Thursday. Be confident, U.S. National Team coordinator Martha Karolyi told her.
“Simone’s still intimidated by her,” Boorman said. “She really values Martha’s opinion.”
But Biles admitted to nerves on her first apparatus, because she was last up in the order on the four-inch-wide balance beam.
“I was freaking out,” Biles said, “because Kyla’s always last.”
She was shaky in warm-up and approached Boorman.
“I just need to trust myself, right?” Biles said.
“Exactly,” her coach responded.
“I didn’t need to say anything,” Boorman said. “She was coaching herself in that moment.”
The not-quite-five-feet Biles bobbled slightly and took a slight hop forward on her dismount, but her score was a half-point better than anybody else.
“I thought beam was shaky,” Biles said. “I guess that’s just because I can feel it more than people see.”
She improved on floor and vault, outscoring her routines from last year’s meet, and finished with a satisfactory effort by her standard on bars.
How did Boorman see it?
“As her coach?” Boorman said. “I saw a lot of mistakes.”
Boorman said Biles didn’t stick any landings, could have displayed tighter form and executed with greater precision.
“[Biles] knows all of that,” Boorman said.
Which brought Boorman to her tenet, not looking up at that giant scoreboard.
“It is about their performance, not about their score,” she said. “They have no control over their score. It could be a tough day of judging. It could be an easy day of judging. It’s all about, do you feel like you improved from what you did before.”
NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will air coverage of the women’s all-around first day Friday at 7 p.m. ET.
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