The U.S. women’s gymnastics team is as dominant as ever. All the more impressive considering everything that’s happened off the competition floor since we last saw it at the Rio Olympics.
The Simone Biles-anchored five-woman team won the world championship in Doha on Tuesday by the largest margin under the 12-year-old scoring system. Biles, Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker, Grace McCallum and Kara Eaker combined for 171.629 points with zero falls.
The Americans routed silver medalist Russia by 8.766 points, crushing the previous record margin of victory of 6.693 set in 2014. It also beat the Olympic record of 8.209 set by the U.S. in Rio. China rallied past Brazil for bronze on the last rotation.
The records are under the Code of Points, which replaced the perfect-10 judging system in 2006.
The U.S. has won six straight Olympic or world titles dating to 2011, the longest dynasty in the event since the Soviet Union teams of the 1970s. In 72 routines, they’ve counted zero falls.
This was the first title since the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes became public, with hundreds of survivors coming forward (including Biles and eight more Olympians), and three USA Gymnastics CEOs stepping down amid the fallout. Plus the end of the Karolyi era, revamping the national-team program.
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The rout was inevitable after the U.S. women distanced Russia by nearly nine points in qualifying over the weekend.
Biles, competing with a kidney stone she named the “Doha Pearl,” tied Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman for the U.S. record of four Olympic/world team titles. She is the only U.S. Olympian who has returned to elite competition since Rio.
“I’m really proud. It’s been a long year to get here,” said Biles, who resumed training last Nov. 1 after a year off following her four golds in Rio. “I’m really proud of the rookies we have on the team, and of course the veteran coming back.”
She had the highest scores on vault, uneven bars and floor exercise. Biles lost a half-point on balance beam for putting her hand on the beam to keep from falling off after a piked front somersault.
“I get a little jittery every time I go into that skill because it’s near the end, and I know what I’m capable of,” Biles said, according to the International Gymnastics Federation. “I don’t know why I get so shy on that skill.”
Hurd, McCusker, McCallum and Eaker earned their first team golds. Hurd is the only one from that group who previously competed at worlds, winning the all-around during Biles’ break last year in Montreal, where there was no team event.
“It’s what I’ve been working for my entire life,” the 17-year-old McCusker said in a USA Gymnastics interview.
Next up? Individual finals, beginning with the men’s and women’s all-around the next two days.
Biles goes for a record-breaking fourth women’s world all-around gold on Thursday, where her closest rival from qualifying was Hurd (a distant 4.5 points behind).
Then on Friday and Saturday, Biles will likely try to become the first woman to earn six medals at a single worlds since Soviet Yelena Shushunova in 1987. The last woman to do it at the Olympics was Romanian Daniela Silivaș in 1988.
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