When Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas take to the floor in Glasgow on Thursday, it will mark the first time since 1980 that a reigning World all-around champion will face a reigning Olympic all-around champion in major women’s international competition.
Biles, the 4-foot-8 dynamo from Spring, Texas, is an overwhelming favorite to become the first woman to win three straight World all-around titles.
She qualified into the final over second-place Giulia Steingruber of Switzerland by 3.958 points, which was greater than the margin separating Steingruber from 41st place in qualifying.
Douglas, a few inches taller and one year older at 19, qualified third and is a medal favorite after taking two years off following her London 2012 triumph.
At Rio 2016, she could become the first Olympic all-around champion to compete in the following Games since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.
Douglas outlasted Fierce Five teammate Aly Raisman in qualifying Saturday to join Biles in this final (2:45 p.m. ET, USAGymWorlds.com/UniversalSports.com).
In June 2014, when Douglas returned to the U.S. gymnastics program following a nearly two-year break, she received an up-close look at her successor. Biles was her roommate at her first national team camp since the London Olympics.
In the five-day camp, they stayed up late and laughed so loudly over things like pizza that the other gymnasts banged on the walls.
“Be quiet guys,” they yelled. “We’re trying to sleep.”
Biles has likened Douglas to an older sister. When they were roommates, Biles said she asked Douglas for advice on choosing her college. Biles announced she picked UCLA over Alabama two months later. Douglas had spent time after London 2012 living in Los Angeles.
“I don’t think we’re competing against each other,” Biles said in 2014.
The top gymnasts traditionally start on vault in an all-around final, and Biles will gain a huge lead on the field if routines from qualifying or Tuesday’s team final are repeated.
Biles’ vault includes a half-twist more than Douglas’, which translates to a half-point more in start value. Biles outscored Douglas by seven tenths of a point on Saturday and Tuesday. At London 2012, Douglas performed the tougher vault that Biles can stick cold, but Douglas said she’s not ready to go for the extra half-twist at this point in her comeback.
“We’re cleaning up more details and more routines,” Douglas said after the U.S. comfortably won the team final Tuesday.
Biles, who hasn’t lost an all-around since 2013, was at least 1.9 points better than Douglas in their three competitions so far this year.
Asked of her goals for the all-around final, Douglas did not mention winning or a specific medal.
“I just need to be really confident and go out there and trust myself and have fun,” said Douglas, who borrowed gold nail polish from Biles before this meet, according to The Associated Press. “Competing on a big Worlds stage, you have to enjoy it.”
NBC Olympics researcher Amanda Doyle contributed to this report from Glasgow.
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