Four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles set for record-breaking championships in Stuttgart
When competition kicks off on 4 October, Biles will enter the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer-Arena with potential for history throughout the meet with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics less than a year away. She’ll be joined by stars of the sport like Angelina Melnikova, Melanie de Jesus dos Santos and Nina Derwael.
On the men’s side, a new era in the sport continues to write its story with the absence of the greatest men’s gymnast of all time, six-time World all-around champion Kohei Uchimura. Uchimura’s post Rio Olympics career has been marred with injury, including a shoulder injury that left him off this year’s team.
After a historic U.S. Championships in August where Biles won her sixth title and debuted two elements never before seen in women’s gymnastics, the 22-year-old American comes to Stuttgart with more history in her grasp. Though that is almost certainly not on her mind.
“I don't have anything to prove to anybody,” Biles told Olympic Channel in August. “I'm out there doing it just for myself this time.”
Biles left the 2018 Worlds in Doha with medals in every final and career total 20. That tied Russia's Svetlana Khorkina for most World medals for a woman. She’s owned the record for most World gold medals since she won her 10th at the 2015 Worlds in Glasgow.
In addition to passing Khorkina’s 20 medal record, Biles is in striking distance of Vitaly Scherbo’s overall record of 23 medals. She’s already the only woman to win four World all-around titles and is the odds-on favorite for a fifth in Stuttgart. Only Uchimura has more all-around victories.
Here are key dates for Biles history-making potential:
2018 World all-around champion Artur Dalaloyan won five medals last year. He’s joined by teammate Nikita Nagornyy who dominated the all-around competition at April’s European Championships and recently took the title at the Russian Cup, as the Russian men look for their first World team title.
The Russian men’s team silver in Doha was their first World team medal since 2006. The Soviet Union won the title in 1991 before China came to dominate the event, winning 11 of 13 gold medals from 1994-2018.
Expect a battle between these two gymnastics superpowers when the men’s team final is held on Oct. 9.
In the men’s all-around, Nagornyy and Dalaloyan, along with teammate David Belyavskiy, are podium contenders as well.
Biles is likely to dominate the women’s competition in Stuttgart, but here are a few others to keep an eye on.
The United States enters competition having won the last four World team titles (2011, 2014, 2015, 2018) and gold medals at both the London and Rio Olympics. Whoever represents the stars and stripes will likely challenge for multiple medals.
Morgan Hurd, who stars in the Olympic Channel original series All Around, has been left off the final team.
Instead, joining Biles in Stuttgart are Jade Carey, Kara Eaker, Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee and MyKayla Skinner. From those six, one will be selected as an alternate, and of the five who take part, a maximum of only two Americans can be in the all-around final.
Other medal contenders include French star and 2019 European champion Melanie de Jesus dos Santos and reigning World uneven bars champion Nina Derwael of Belgium. Derwael has the potential to win Belgium’s first Olympic gold medal in gymnastics next year in Tokyo.
Hurd’s All Around co-star Angelina Melnikova of Russia is hoping for her first individual medal at the World Championships after just missing in 2018 with a fifth place finish in the all-around and a fourth in the floor exercise final. Melnikova's teammate Aliya Mustafina will miss this year's Championships..
In the battle between the Russian men and the Chinese, 2017 World all-around champion Xiao Ruoteng will be a major player. The 23-year-old who has three World championships gold medals, will be looking to erase disappointment from 2018.
A year ago, he and Dalaloyan posted identical scores in the all-around final but Ruoteng had to settle for the silver medal after the tie break.
“I feel pity about that," Xiao said at the time, "but I respect the judges and my rival. I basically want to be number one but anyway I am still happy with the result."
He, and Dalaloyan, will have to hold off challenges from Japanese newcomers Kazuma Kaya and Wataru Tanigawa, who have posted top scores in international competition this season. American Sam Mikulak, who captured his sixth U.S. title in August, also has the ability to challenge for the all-around podium.
Mikulak told Olympic Channel earlier this year that after a disappointing fifth-place finish in the all-around last year, getting to the all-around podium in Stuttgart is his number one goal of the season.
Several athletes are notably missing from the 2019 World Gymnastics Championships.
On the men’s side, six-time World all-around champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan will miss the Worlds for the first time since 2009 due to injury. Though the 30-year-old superstar has pledged to return next year for a chance to compete at his home Olympics in Tokyo, Uchimura has been plagued with injuries that limited him at both the 2017 and 2018 Worlds.
Uchimura’s Doha roommate Kenzo Shirai, who owns five World gold medals, will also watch competition from home after dealing with his own injury struggles in the early part of the season.
Japan’s injury woes also include Mai Murakami, who finished second to Biles in the all-around at last year’s Worlds. Murakami has been dealing with a back injury that prevented her from participating in her country’s selection events.
Also notably absent is Brazil's Rebeca Andrade. Andrade has the 7th best all-around score this season, according to TheGymter.net but tore her ACL for a third time at June's Brazilian national championships.
Double Olympic champion Aliya Mustafina made her return to international all-around competition earlier this year but a calf injury kept her out of the Russian Cup and thus, Worlds. Ironically, Mustafina missed both the 2011 and 2015 Worlds before going onto the next year’s Olympic Games where she claimed uneven bars gold and all-around bronze.
She told Olympic Channel in August that she plans to reset and return for a chance at a third Games.
"At the moment, I choose to find myself physically, mentally, to rest a little. I want to start my way to Tokyo with a brand new energy,” she said. "After resting, I plan to get back to my best shape, to show my best programs and without rushing reach Tokyo and perform well."
4 - 13 Oct 2019
2019 FIG World Championships - Stuttgart