Biles, U.S. women dance to team gold at gymnastics Worlds
Four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles led the U.S. women to their fourth straight World team title today at the World Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar.
From the very first vault, Team USA led the standings. They ended 8.766 clear of Russia, and their 14.302 average gave them a team total of 171.629.
Russia’s score of 162.863 was second, followed by China in third with 162.396. In addition to their medals, the top three teams earned berths to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“It’s really exciting especially with the group we had tonight, a couple of rookies and veterans. It makes me happy to see them happy,” Biles said.
The U.S.’s gap to Russia was the largest margin of victory since the International Gymnastics Federation moved away from a 10.000 maximum in 2006.
"I think I can speak for everyone. It feels absolutely amazing because even with the new code we won by that large of a margin. It just shows our hard work pay off,” said 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd, referencing a change to the rules after Rio 2016 that lowered each score by .500.
Biles still brilliant
Biles, who earlier this week took a trip to the hospital before being diagnosed with a kidney stone, competed as the anchor on all four events for the U.S.
“Right now, I’m feeling OK – I’m in a little bit of pain,” Biles said. “I feel like it’s just from standing all day. I’m feeling good.”
Despite a few minor errors, Biles still earned the top score on three events: vault, uneven bars and floor exercise. She grabbed the beam on a front pike, earning a 13.733 – still the sixth best number on the event.
The medal is Biles’ 11th gold at the Worlds. She has a chance to grab five more before Saturday.
“It definitely feels amazing because we put so much hard work into tonight, so I think it’s a very good reward,” she said.
In the past, a mistake from an American on a routine in the qualifying round almost certainly meant that gymnast would sit out of the unforgiving team final where all scores count.
But high-performance coordinator Tom Forster, who took over the U.S. women's program in June, took a different approach.
“I told myself then that if we had a big lead after the first day, I wanted to give as much experience to the 'first timers' as possible,” he said in a Facebook post, “and still put a great team on the floor.”
That meant Riley McCusker, who fell off the beam in the qualifying, would get a chance at redemption.
“Riley has a higher start value and has been training great every day,” Forster wrote. “We all believe in her.”
His faith was rewarded when McCusker stepped up to the balance beam and delivered. Her 13.733 was more than six tenths of a point better than her mark on Saturday.
“She took advantage of it and I’m really happy for her,” Forster said afterward.
“And it sends a statement to our USA program as to the type of system that we have. We don’t write you off if you have a mistake. Mistakes happen, we’re just human.”
“It felt so good. I just had a lot of nerves going into the first day, on my first time on the world stage," said McCusker.
“I feel like I got all those out, and I was ready to come in today and nail it.”
Dancing to the finish
Beyond Biles and McCusker, the U.S. women saw solid performances from Hurd and newcomers Kara Eaker and Grace McCallum.
“Well, they’re not rookies any more. They’ll be veterans from this day forward,” Foster said of McCusker, Eaker and McCallum.
With Biles' mistake on the beam, Eaker posted the top score on that apparatus tonight with a 14.333.
“I was just focusing on doing what I know how to do,” Eaker said.
And what they all know how to do is win. As Biles closed out the competition – she needed just a 6.001 to give Team USA the gold – her teammates mimicked her dance on the sidelines. It was the result of three weeks of togetherness.
“It’s definitely helped being together for so long and getting that team atmosphere together and the camaraderie.”