Simone Biles becomes most medalled woman at gymnastics worlds

The four-time Olympic gold medallist brought home her 21st world championship medal at the competition in Stuttgart

Another day, another line in the record books.

Simone Biles and her Team USA teammates won their fifth-straight World team title on Tuesday at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.

The gold medal is Biles' 21st overall medal at the Worlds and moves her into sole possession of the record for most medals by a female gymnast. Previously, she was tied with Russia's Svetlana Khorkina at 20.

The medal also represents Biles' 15th gold medal at the World Championships, a record she already owned, going back to 2015.

"I guess it’s kinda crazy," said Biles, never one to focus on the superlatives of her stellar career.

For the Americans, it's total domination as they become the first team since Romania (1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001) to claim five global team titles in a row.

"I feel like I haven’t gotten the chance to process it yet," Biles said. "But I think we’ll do some celebrating tonight, for all of it. For the team, for the medal count, for the fifth year in a row.

The U.S. posted an 172.330, followed by Russia with 166.529. Italy took the bronze medal at 164.796.

United States leads from start to finish

Biles' 21st medal was never in doubt. The U.S. women wasted no time in Stuttgart, booming three vaults in a row to open the competition. Grace McCallum got things rolling with a 14.600 for her double-twisting laidout Yurchenko. Then, Jade Carey and Biles followed with Cheng vaults (round off onto the board, half turn onto the vault, front with one-and-a-half twists) and added scores of 15.166 and 15.400, respectively.

That trio gave the red, white and blue the top score on the event by 1.267.

On the uneven bars and balance beam, the squad suffered uncharacteristic errors with McCallum losing momentum on a pirouette on the bars, which caused her to add an extra swing and incur many form deductions.

On beam, Sunisa Lee, the only American without prior experience at the World Championships, slipped off her the beam on her back layout just as she had in Saturday's qualifying round.

"It’s not easy competing night after night after, especially this many times," said Biles of her youngest teammate, "but going into the gym, she overthinks it a little bit too much when she goes into her series."

No matter, by the time Biles got to the floor to display her remarkable triple-twisting, double back (now the Biles II), she needed only a 9.533 to take gold. She was nearly flawless en route to a 15.333.

For Biles: that was the highlight of the night, as she smiled brightly, when talking about her floor exercise routine.

"It was a little bit nerve wracking, but it was kinda fun, especially to end on floor," Biles said. "That’s always super fun and I stayed in bounds. So I think that was the highlight of the night."

'Pressure is a privilege'

Despite Biles' seemingly never ending list of accomplishments, the 21-time World medallist admitted she still feels the pressure.

"Sometimes, I wish I would quit because the other day we walked out there, and I was like, 'I literally hate this feeling. I don't know why I keep forcing myself to do it,'" Biles said.

But even still, she knows that her magical nights on the competition floor will, at some point, come to an end and is savoring it.

"I hate that feeling like I'm gonna puke before, but you know, we love the thrill of it," said Biles, "so it reminds me to never give up because, one day, I won't have the opportunity to get that feeling.

"It just means the world that we have the opportunity."

Italy takes bronze - its first World team medal since 1950

Going into the final rotation, the Italians were a surprising second place, just 2.434 behind the USA. Their storybook team final comes days after they barely advanced, grabbing the last spot in eighth. Their performance on beam was the stuff of nightmares, as the first three women all slipped off the event. Only their anchor Elisa Iorio managed to stay on the event.

That feels like a distant memory as they took the bronze medal, their first at the World since finishing in the same position in 1950.

Youth Olympic Games champion Giorgia Villa led the team and competed on all four apparatus. They started slowly on the floor, posting what would end up as the sixth best total on the event. From there, they began to climb with the third best total on vault and the second best on the uneven bars.

In the final rotation, Villa started the team off strong with a 13.600. Asia Damato followed with a 13.266, meaning Elisa Iorio needed just an 11.368 to make history.

"We came into the competition with courage to do better than in qualifying," said Villa. "We finally managed to bring home an excellent result. It was our first World Championships, and we’re coming back with a bronze medal around our necks. Therefore, we are very happy."

Rising Russians, Tingting falters

Coming into Tuesday's final, Russia and China were expected to claim the silver and bronze medals. Russia started strong on the uneven bars where their 43.665 was the top score of the day, led by 2015 World uneven bars co-champion Daria Spiridonova with a 14.733.

But disaster struck on the balance beam where Lilia Akhaimova and Anastasiia Agafonova earned scores of just 12.533 and 12.166, respectively. Angelina Melnikova was the sole Russian to break into the 13s with a solid 13.766 effort.

They were solid in the final two rotations on the floor exercise and vault to finish in second for the second year in a row.

For China, the women's team final was full of disappointment. Second in qualifying, the Chinese appeared confident in training and qualification. But tonight, team captain Liu Tingting cost them dearly, falling twice off the uneven bars and once on balance beam.

"Tingting was a little bit of a disappointment for a team captain," said national team coach Qiao Liang, who guided Americans Shawn Johnson and Gabby Douglas to Olympic gold. "She did not perform the way I expected."

Regardless, Qiao sees a bright future ahead for his native country: "For the most part, I feel great about it. I think the team did a great job especially for three young athletes, it’s their first time competing at this big stage. They have upgraded so much over a year, and they preformed really well today.

"The main goal is to prepare for the Tokyo Games," he added. "We will make some adjustment and we’ll learn from the mistakes."

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