U.S. women’s gymnastics team ready to take on the world

Simone Biles and company impressed during training ahead of the world championships in Doha

Four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles returns to the world stage at the World Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar. The American is looking to lead Team USA to its fourth-straight World gold medal, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since Romania won five titles from 1994-2001.

High performance director Tom Forster shrugged off any pressure to continue Team USA’s dominance.

“Pressure to win the gold? No, I don’t feel pressure,” he said.

And why would he with a line-up that includes the reigning World champ Morgan Hurd and newcomer Riley McCusker, who has traded wins with Hurd throughout the year, in addition to Biles.

“It’s even deeper than that,” said Forster, noting recent international success for Grace McCallum and Kara Eaker at the Pan Am Championships. 2017 U.S. champion Ragan Smith is also on the team. “It’s fun because they’re feeding off one another’s energy in practice. But clearly Morgan and Simone are the leaders, and they’re doing a great job.”

“We have a lot of rookies on our team and a couple of veterans,” said Biles. “The veterans are excited to shine some light on the rookies and lead them through the Worlds.”

US women's team get ready for world championships

US women's team get ready for world championships

Blocking out everything else

As the fallout from the Larry Nassar scandal continues to unfold, the U.S. women, especially Biles who came forward in January to say she, too, had been assaulted by the former team doctor, have faced distractions beyond their control.

Take last week for example, hours after USA Gymnastics named the women’s team for Doha, they announced that former U.S. Congresswoman Mary Bono would serve as interim president and CEO of the organization.

But after criticism from Biles and fellow Olympic star Aly Raisman, Bono resigned abruptly. A day later, former USA Gymnastics boss Steve Penny was arrested on charges related to the Nassar scandal.

“It’s easy because we don’t think about it,” Forster said of his role in keeping in the team focused on competition. “Our job is to come and help them achieve their goals and dreams in gymnastics. The rest really doesn’t matter, so we don’t talk about it.”

But Hurd surely knows how a win in Doha would send a signal to a global audience.

“I think it will speak volumes [if we are able to win], even though everything around us is going on, we’re able to keep the focus and keep on training,” Hurd said. Adding, “We want to reach our goals despite everything.”

Simone Biles:

Simone Biles: "We'll make memories"

Never seen before

The U.S. women made a surprise appearance yesterday while their male teammates underwent their podium training session. In years past, such a show of support for their countrymen would have been unheard of.

“I’m shook,” Biles said Monday via text to the Olympic Channel. Adding, “Things are so different this time around.”

It’s part of a culture change called for in a report released last year by USA Gymnastics in the wake of the Nassar scandal.

“It’s a good balance, that’s how life is at home. We behave normally at home. At Championships and competitions like that they get to go out and go to lunch and just do normal things,” said Maggie Haney, who coached Laurie Hernandez to Olympic gold and silver in 2016. Haney is in Doha with McCusker.

“I think it’s good that we have a mixture of serious and a little bit of normal, too,” she added.

Despite the surprise appearance, one thing seems unlikely to change in Doha: the American women’s dominance. Biles has the capability to win four or five gold medals, with her teammates ready to help add to the haul.

“I’m really excited. I think our team as a whole will shine a lot of light at this competition, and hopefully, we’ll bring back some medals,” Biles said. “We’ll make memories.”

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