Simone Biles rockets to top of Worlds leaderboard despite hospital drama
Not even a kidney stone could keep four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles from the top of the scoreboard in qualification at the World Gymnastics Championships in Doha.
The four-time Olympic champion made an emergency room visit on Friday night with abdominal pain.
Talking to Olympic Channel, Biles revealed she had been suffering from back pain for two weeks, and that her mother Nellie convinced her that a hospital visit was in order.
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A nurse suggested that she might have to spend the night in hospital.
But Biles said, “I was like, ‘Sorry, I have to compete, so I’m leaving, but, like, thanks for letting me know I have a kidney stone. And I’ll deal with the pain later.”
And on Saturday, she took the all-around lead by over four points from team-mate and defending all-around champion Morgan Hurd.
Playing with pain
Any pain was unnoticeable as the 10-time world champion performed inside the Aspire Dome.
Biles appeared ready to go from the moment she walked in, leading Team USA to the uneven bars.
And in the one-touch warm-up just prior to competition, Biles nailed a routine.
When it counted, she held off one shaky moment on a handstand before finishing with a stuck dismount to post the second best score of the day of 14.866.
“It felt really good,” she said. “It’s really nerve wracking starting on bars.”
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The uneven bars is the only event where Biles does not lead the scoreboards.
On the floor, she leads reigning world champion Mai Murakami of Japan by more than a point.
Spending the night before returning to the world stage is hardly ideal and, with the depth of the American team, any error could have found Biles on the outside looking in.
Biles competed with pain with her mother sending her a message on Twitter ahead of the competition, telling her to "be the best Simone".
And she was. Her 60.965 total is her highest all-around score in the five competitions she has entered since her return from a year off.
“It hurts to stand for a while and do some of the movements,” Biles said, “but I think adrenaline definitely helped out there.”
Whatever it was, Biles was brilliant on all four events. But the highlight of the day came on the last rotation: vault.
Biles unveiled the new vault she has shown in training, a round off on to the board, half turn onto the table followed by a front flip with two twists.
Despite sitting down her warm-up attempt, Biles landed her competition vault effortlessly.
“I got down to the runway and calmed myself down and just tried to focus on going a little bit easier,” Biles said.
She was rewarded massively with a 15.966 and will be given her second named element in the gymnastics code of points. Her second vault, the difficult Amanar vault, is the envy of the world
A team effort
Hurd had a stand-out day of her own, starting for the team in three of the four events.
“It honestly makes me a little less nervous because I have less time to get even more anxious,” Hurd said of her lead-off role.
Hurd will defend her all-around title from Montreal on Thursday and she will be crucial in Tuesday's team final where all the scores count.
The U.S. women, heavy favourites in Doha, have not lost a major team title since 2011 and Hurd is well aware of what has come before her.
“There’s clearly a lot of pressure there. I mean how many World Championships the U.S. won? And we have to keep the pedestal,” said Hurd.
They seem on track, to say the least.
Beyond Biles and Hurd, newcomers Grace McCallum and Kara Eaker impressed.
McCallum is on course to make eight-strong vault final on Friday, while Eaker delivered the second-best score on balance beam behind you know who.
“It’s definitely getting closer, and closer to my dream routine,” Eaker said.
“It’s great because we have such a strong team, and I know we can all deliver,” Hurd added.