The world’s best female gymnast is Simone Biles, a 16-year-old Texan with braces who beat a field of Olympians to win the world all-around title in her first major international meet.
Biles, the 2013 U.S. all-around champion, scored 60.216 points, coming from behind after three of four rotations to overtake teammate Kyla Ross, who had 59.332 points.
Russian Aliya Mustafina, the 2010 world all-around champion, won bronze with 58.856 in Antwerp, Belgium, on Friday.
Ross, the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic champion team, led by a tiny .016 of a point going into the final rotation, floor exercise.
Biles had a huge advantage over Ross going into that event, outscoring her by .7 in qualifying and .45 and .8 at the U.S. Championships in August.
It would have been a shock if Biles didn’t pass Ross on the final event. She delivered a 15.233 after Ross posted a 14.333 to become the seventh U.S. woman to win a world all-around title.
“It feels pretty good, but it hasn’t really sunken in yet, but I know what I’ve done is a big accomplishment,” Biles said in a video interview posted by USA Gymnastics.
The World Championships conclude with apparatus finals this weekend, including McKayla Maroney on vault Saturday.
Biles received a big boost on her opening event, vault. She performed an Amanar, which carried an extra half-twist and a half-point higher start value than the vaults of Ross and Mustafina. Biles led by nearly a half-point over Ross and almost a full point over Mustafina after the first rotation.
Though Ross outscored Biles on the next two apparatus, uneven bars and balance beam, she needed a much bigger advantage going into floor exercise to have a chance at gold.
Over the last 10 years, 10 different female gymnasts have been the highest-placing American at the World Championships or Olympics. This speaks to the extraordinary turnover in a sport where the last three U.S. Olympic teams were all rookies.
Biles could very well still be on top next year. She’s young enough to still be on the rise, and the top two U.S. juniors from this year are too young to enter senior competitions in 2014. And who knows what form Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber will be in if and when they return.
But what about 2016? Biles must show staying power not seen in women’s gymnastics in the last two Olympic cycles. In 2005, Chellsie Memmel won the World Championship, but injuries kept her from being an all-arounder at the 2008 Olympics.
In 2009, Bridget Sloan and Rebecca Bross went one-two at the World Championships. Neither made the 2012 Olympic team.