Simone Biles secures record fourth world all-around crown
The ending was the same, but it was not the day four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles dreamed of a year ago when she resumed training.
Not by a long shot.
"I’m definitely more upset with myself than happy. It’s not the gymnast that I am, to go out there and kind of bomb a meet like this," Biles said, a gold medal still safely around her neck.
“Even though I won, I wish it were a little bit different.”
Biles hopes "this Simone goes away" despite clinching all-around title
Biles hopes "this Simone goes away" despite clinching all-around titleMost athletes would be ecstatic after securing a record fourth world all-around title in Doha. Not Simone Biles.
The 21-year-old was still a clear victor, beating Japan’s Mai Murakami, 57.491 to 55.798, to claim a record fourth all-around crown and her 12th world title in all.
Biles’ teammate and 2017 world champion Morgan Hurd took bronze with a total of 55.732.
Murakami is the first Japanese woman to claim an all-around world medal since Koko Tsurumi's bronze in 2009.
It’s also the sixth time two American women have finished on the podium in the world all-around final.
Tough day at the office
Biles started with a fall on the vault, sending shockwaves through Doha’s Aspire Dome.
The error was excusable as it came on the difficult new vault she debuted on Saturday which will now be known as ‘the Biles’.
She said, "It was so good in warm-up. I feel like I was trying to hold back a little bit because I didn’t want to overpower it too much."
Biles moved to the uneven bars where her one-touch warm-up was less than perfect, after which she sat on the podium staring straight ahead.
But order was soon restored as she earned 14.725, the second-best score of the night on the event.
She then slipped off the balance beam on a front flip with a half twist in the third rotation, and wobbled again on the front flip which troubled her in Tuesday's women’s team final.
Her 13.233 was enough to keep her in front heading to the final rotation but only by 0.092 from Belgium's Nina Derwael.
The floor has been Biles’ best event since her World Championships debut in 2013 and it's the only exercise where she has won three straight world titles.
By the time she took to the stage, Murakami and Hurd had moved above Derwael into first and second with Biles needing just 13.308 to take victory.
She could have played it safe and toned down some of the difficult tumbling passes in her routine, but that’s not in Biles' nature.
“Even on a bad day like today, I don’t want to water it down just because I had some of those falls,” she said. “I’d still rather go out there and show who I am as a competitor.”
She overcooked her first tumbling pass – the layout double-double that no other woman in Doha is attempting – and went out of bounds.
The rest was near-perfect as she posted 15.000 for a winning margin of 1.693, the largest in her four wins, but less than the 2.100 points separating her from Aly Raisman at Rio 2016.
A rare sight
Biles’ dominance has been so complete in recent years that seeing her name – even mid-competition – not at the top of the leaderboard can be jarring.
In Rio, Biles was narrowly behind Russia’s Aliya Mustafina after the latter performed on her specialty: the uneven bars.
Before that, fellow American Kyla Ross had led going into the final rotation at Biles’ first global meet in 2013.
After the fall on vault, Biles found herself in third place.
“Instead of expecting I can win, I felt like, 'Oh, Biles can fall,’” Murakami said of any opening that Biles’ misstep may have presented.
But Biles retook the lead after the uneven bars, and there she remained.
It’s the first time a woman has claimed the world all-around gold with a fall since Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari in 2006, the first year the International Gymnastics Federation utilised the open-ended scoring system.
Biles had the clear advantage in her difficulty score, gaining 25.4 points against Murakami's 22.0.
Even with two 1.000 deductions for her falls on vault and balance beam, she started 1.4 ahead of second place.
Murakami could not hold back her tears as she walked off the floor podium.
She cried in sorrow a year ago at the Worlds in Montreal - a fall from the beam dropping her out of the medals after she had led the field in qualifying.
"I had a fall on beam last year, and I really wanted to get a medal this year so I worked so hard on beam,” she said. “So instead of 'I'm just trying to get a medal' I was focusing on staying on the beam, that's it."
That work paid off in Doha as she posted the fourth best mark on the balance beam before ending the competition on the floor, the event in which she claimed gold last year.
“My goal is winning a medal as a team so to get this medal is my first step to lead my teammates to go for it," Murakami said.
Backing up Montreal
With Biles watching at home, Hurd was the surprise gold medallist a year ago after pre-meet favourite and 2017 American champion Ragan Smith's late withdrawal.
The 18-year-old came to Doha determined to prove that her performance in Montreal was no fluke.
“I had a lot more pressure that I put on myself this year," said Hurd. “I'm not completely satisfied with that but then I really left it all out there on my floor routine.”
It was a floor routine fuelled by anger at mistakes made on the balance beam, where she wobbled on a standing back flip with a full twist early on and then grabbed the beam on an aerial cartwheel.
Hurd delivered one of her best floor routines so far in Doha and secured the bronze medal by less than half a point.
She competes in the uneven bars and floor finals in the coming days and said, "There definitely is (going to be more rage). Floor was just going total rage."