Rebeca Andrade is the first all-around gold medalist for Brazil and South America, crowned the top female gymnast at the world championships in Liverpool, England, on Thursday.
Andrade, the 23-year-old favorite, won with 56.899 points, distancing the silver medalist, American Shilese Jones, by 1.5 points. Jones was 10th at last year’s Olympic Trials and was ready to quit elite gymnastics. Now she’s the world’s second-best gymnast.
Jessica Gadirova earned bronze for Great Britain’s first world women’s all-around medal. Last year, Gadirova had Great Britain’s best Olympic women’s all-around finish in history — 10th.
Jade Carey, the other American in the final, was sixth, two places better than her result in Tokyo.
Andrade, the Olympic all-around silver medalist, had the highest score in qualifying by 1.566 points. With scores reset Thursday, she had no falls, though she had errors on uneven bars and the balance beam.
Andrade completed Brazil’s rise since 2000 from non-existent in medal-level gymnastics to the top of the sport. Brazil had no active Olympic gymnasts when Andrade was born in 1999, one of eight siblings raised by her mom, a house cleaner.
Brazil’s emergence began with Daniele Hypolito, who won the nation’s first world championships medal in 2001 (floor silver). Daiane dos Santos, the 4-foot-9 firecracker, followed with gold on floor at the 2003 Worlds (and later appeared before Steve Prefontaine in a Nike commercial). In 2007, Jade Barbosa landed bronze in the world championships all-around. In 2012, Arthur Zanetti won Olympic still rings gold.
Andrade won Brazil’s second Olympic title in Tokyo, doing so on vault three days after taking silver in the all-around behind American Suni Lee. Andrade would have been Olympic all-around champion if not for landing out of bounds twice on her closing floor routine.
Andrade’s growing medal collection is the product of perseverance. Three separate right ACL tears ruled her out of the world championships in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
“I have had a lot of moments, not just in my sporting life but in my personal life too: my injuries, the things I needed to do to be here now,” she said, according to the International Gymnastics Federation. “There have been a lot of things that have helped me make adjustments when I need to. I don’t feel pressure doing gymnastics, because that’s my job.”
Andrade, who has four million followers between Instagram and TikTok, is the oldest woman to win a world all-around title since Russian Svetlana Khorkina in 2003. Khorkina’s back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2003 marked the last time the U.S. went consecutive worlds without winning the women’s all-around until now.
The U.S. won every Olympic and world all-around title from 2011 through the Tokyo Games, with Simone Biles taking six of those. Biles and Lee are on indefinite, perhaps permanent breaks from elite gymnastics.
Angelina Melnikova, who won last October’s world title with Biles, Lee and Andrade not in the field, missed these worlds due to the ban on Russian gymnasts for the war in Ukraine.
China’s Tang Xijing, the 2019 World silver medalist, withdrew before the start of Thursday’s final after struggling in Tuesday’s team final.
Konnor McClain, who won the U.S. all-around title in August, missed worlds due to a back injury.
That made Jones the top American all-arounder, one year after she was 10th at Olympic Trials. The top nine went to Tokyo — five on the team, four as alternates — and Jones was ready to end her elite gymnastics career and matriculate at the University of Florida.
After conversations with loved ones, notably her father, Jones changed her mind. She deferred enrollment until 2024 because she had designs on the Paris Games.
“I knew that wasn’t the ending,” Jones said Thursday. “I knew I was capable of more.”
In December, Jones’ father, Sylvester, died after a long kidney disease battle. In a GoFundMe to help with funeral and travel expenses, Jones wrote that it was her dad’s “dream to see me on the Olympic stage one day and he devoted anything and everything to my gymnastics. Beat tired after a long day of dialysis to drive and pick me up from practices. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to support my gymnastics.”
Worlds continue Friday with the men’s all-around final, live on Peacock at 2:05 p.m. ET.
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!Follow @nbcolympictalk