Five U.S. women in red and sparkling silver leotards clutched each other’s hands as they waited for the scoreboard to update one final time, just like the Fierce Five at the London Olympics.
“I got the shivers,” said Maggie Nichols, the only rookie on this year’s team. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
It wasn’t a matter of if the Americans would win, but by how much.
The U.S. women’s gymnastics team captured its fourth straight global title in a romp, hitting all 12 routines for a wire-to-wire victory at the World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, on Tuesday.
“I think we started off with a bang,” team leader Simone Biles said, “and ended with a bang.”
The Americans totaled 181.338 points, beating silver medalist China by 5.174.
Great Britain edged Russia for bronze by .416, its first World Championships team medal, its gymnasts bawling as the home crowd applauded.
Biles, who will go for an unprecedented third straight women’s World all-around title Thursday, earned her 10th World Championships medal, matching the U.S. record held by the retired Alicia Sacramone. She said her mom locks up all of her medals.
London Olympic champions Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, the U.S. all-around silver medalist Nichols and Madison Kocian joined Biles on Tuesday. They scored 14.8 points or better on 10 of 12 combined routines and were the only team with no falls.
“We know we can do these routines in our sleep,” Raisman said.
It was a dominating U.S. performance, but not as big of a blowout as its 2014 World title (6.693-point margin). And it came after about 20 days of training with no days off, Nichols said.
“We made a joke that we worked out so much that we were going to go on strike,” Raisman said. “It was all worth it.”
The last nation to win four straight global titles was Romania, which captured the 1997, 1999 and 2001 World titles and the 2000 Olympic title.
“I almost don’t even remember,” U.S. women’s national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said of the streak. “I know that every time that’s where we strive, but we just never assume. … I see sometimes, or in the past, that once somebody gets to the top, think that I deserve to be there just because who I am.”
Karolyi is the secret to the streak, along with plenty of hard work, Raisman said.
Now, the U.S. will go into Rio 2016 with a chance for the first run of five straight global titles since the Soviet Union won six from 1968 through 1978.
“The pressure will be there,” Biles said. “We’re all really good at handling the pressure.”
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Biles, Douglas, Raisman and Nichols set themselves up well this year to make the five-woman Olympic team, which will be chosen after the Olympic trials from July 8-10 in San Jose. The Rio Olympics open Aug. 5.
“Aly and Gabby keep saying this is just like the Olympics,” Biles said of Worlds. “It’s just the title that’s different.”
Karolyi, whose judgment matters the most in deciding the Olympic team, said she’s very pleased with the comebacks of Douglas and Raisman, who took two years off after London 2012 and are trying to become the first U.S. women since 2000 to make back-to-back Olympic teams.
“I think probably with the leftover several months until Olympics, they will be in totally top shape,” Karolyi told media in Glasgow. “I think it’s a great achievement so far.”
Who else is in the running?
Kocian, who competed on one event in the team final, uneven bars. Brenna Dowell, who is also strongest on bars, and went unused in the team final. MyKayla Skinner was the alternate in Glasgow. Her best events are vault and floor exercise.
Then there’s Laurie Hernandez, the U.S. junior champion who will be old enough for the Olympics in 2016 and could become the first U.S. Olympian in any sport born in 2000.
Of the other London Olympians, Jordyn Wieber retired, McKayla Maroney hasn’t competed in more than two years and Kyla Ross finished 10th in the all-around at the P&G Championships in August and withdrew from Worlds team selection.
Olympic silver medalist Russia could be stronger in Rio than in Glasgow, if it gets 2010 World all-around champion Aliya Mustafina back from injury.
Douglas, with gold nail polish, said having a gold medal draped around her neck felt “like old times” but that this year’s team is stronger and more powerful than in 2011, at the start of this dominating run.
“We each bring, like, a different unique treasure to the team,” she said.
NBC Olympics researcher Amanda Doyle contributed to this report from Glasgow.
MORE GYMNASTICS: World Championships broadcast schedule
GOLD: U.S. — 181.338
SILVER: China — 176.164
BRONZE: Great Britain — 172.380
4. Russia — 171.964
5. Japan — 169.887
6. Canada — 167.697
7. Italy — 167.597
8. Netherlands — 162.730