The U.S. is still in a class of its own in women’s gymnastics, winning the World Championship team gold by an even more extraordinary margin than it did at Worlds in 2011 and the Olympics in 2012.
Simone Biles, Kyla Ross, Alyssa Baumann, Madison Kocian, Ashton Locklear and MyKayla Skinner combined for 179.28 points, 6.693 better than silver medalist China in Nanning on Wednesday. Russia, which finished second to the U.S. in 2011 and 2012, was third.
“Three-up, three-count, you have to hit,” Baumann said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “Everyone hit all their events.”
It’s the largest women’s team margin of victory at a World Championships or Olympics since the new scoring system was implemented in 2006.
The U.S. won the 2011 World Championships by 4.082. It won the 2012 Olympics by 5.066, which was the previous record. There was no team event at the 2013 World Championships.
The men’s record margin is 7.25 points, set by China at the 2008 Olympics.
“They were able to come in and not be intimidated and just do the job they were prepared for,” U.S. National Team coordinator Martha Karolyi said in Nanning. “I think our girls are performing at a level much higher than the rest of the world.”
Gymnastics scores are made up of two parts — difficulty and execution. Chinese star Yao Jinnan was asked what the difference was between the U.S. and China.
“I think the distance majorly lies in execution and difficulty,” she said.
A key apparatus, as in 2011 and 2012, was vault, boosted in particular by higher difficulty from the Americans. They scored 2.042 more points than any other nation on vault Wednesday.
In 2011, the U.S. scored 2.3 more than any other nation in vault in the Worlds team final. In 2012, the difference was 1.766 in the Olympics.
The Americans also posted the highest score of all eight nations on their Achilles’ heel event, uneven bars.
The U.S.’ dominance this year is even more remarkable given several of its best gymnasts were left at home.
Maggie Nichols, the No. 3 all-arounder behind Biles and Ross at the P&G Championships, dislocated a kneecap. Rachel Gowey, fourth at the Secret Classic behind Biles, Ross and Nichols, broke an ankle. McKayla Maroney had knee surgery in March, and Gabby Douglas pushed back her return to next year. Olympic alternate and 2014 American Cup winner Elizabeth Price retired from elite gymnastics in April.
Of course, what this means for the Rio 2016 Olympics isn’t totally clear. Only one woman from the 2010 U.S. World Championships team that won silver behind Russia made it back for the London 2012 Olympics — Aly Raisman. Two years is a long time in women’s gymnastics.
The World Championships continue with the men’s all-around final Thursday (full schedule here). Japan’s Kohei Uchimura is a heavy favorite to win his fifth straight World title. No other male or female gymnast has won four.
Biles and Ross go in the women’s all-around final Friday. Biles, also a heavy favorite, will try to become the first woman to win back-to-back World titles since Russian Svetlana Khorkina in 2001 and 2003.
“Just go back and sleep, and then I guess we get the morning off maybe tomorrow from practice,” Biles said. “I think we might go [get] manis and pedis.”