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USA Gymnastics

U.S. women’s gymnastics team for world championships qualifying named

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As expected, Simone Biles must outscore a U.S. teammate to make the world championships all-around final.

The Olympic all-around gold medalist and three-time world champion is one of three U.S. women slated to compete on all four apparatuses in qualifying at worlds in Doha on Saturday. The top two out of Biles, 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd and two-time U.S. bronze medalist Riley McCusker advance to next Thursday’s all-around final.

Biles, Hurd and McCusker are joined on the U.S. women’s team for qualifying by first-year seniors Grace McCallum (floor exercise, uneven bars and vault) and Kara Eaker (balance beam).

Ragan Smith, the 2017 U.S. all-around champion who has struggled with injuries the last year, was named the alternate.

In Tuesday’s team final, nations are reduced to three gymnasts per apparatus, with all three scores counting.

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Biles, eyeing a female record-breaking fourth world title, is used to competition within the U.S. team just to make all-around finals.

In 2013, Biles and Kyla Ross outscored McKayla Maroney in worlds qualifying, then went one-two in the final.

In 2014, Biles and Ross made it ahead of MyKayla Skinner and Madison Kocian. Biles and Ross would share the podium again, this time with Ross taking bronze.

In 2015, Biles and Gabby Douglas kept Aly Raisman out of the world all-around final. In Rio, Raisman made it over Douglas. Both times, the U.S. went one-two in the all-around final.

Every time, Biles safely qualified in the No. 1 spot overall and at least 1.8 points clear of the No. 3 American.

Given that, the competition between Hurd and McCusker for the second U.S. all-around final spot should be among the most intriguing of qualifying.

Hurd outscored McCusker by. 55 between two days at the U.S. Championships in August. McCusker was second to Biles at a selection camp two weeks ago, two points better than Hurd.

Gymnasts also vie for apparatus finals spots in qualifying.

The top eight women per apparatus make each of the four event finals, maximum two per country. That’s where McCallum and Eaker can make their mark individually. McCallum was second to Biles on floor at the selection camp. Eaker had the top beam score in the selection camp all-around.

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U.S. women’s gymnastics team named for world championships

Morgan Hurd, Simone Biles, Riley McCusker
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Simone Biles was joined on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team for the world championships in two weeks by all of the other big names, including the 2017 U.S. and world all-around champions during her break from the sport.

Morgan Hurd (2017 World all-around champ), Ragan Smith (2017 U.S. all-around champ), Riley McCuskerGrace McCallum and Kara Eaker were named to the worlds team on Friday by USA Gymnastics. Biles clinched a spot by winning the all-around at a selection camp in Sarasota, Fla., on Thursday.

USA Gymnastics must designate one of the six gymnasts as its alternate before world competition begins in Doha. The Americans are clear favorites to earn the team title, which they have done at the last two Olympics and last three world championships.

Four women can compete per apparatus in qualifying. In the team final, it’s the same three-up, three-count format as at the Olympics. No more than two gymnasts per nation qualify for individual finals.

If the U.S. team final roster went straight off best scores from Thursday’s selection camp all-around, it would look like this:

Vault — Biles, Hurd, McCallum
Uneven Bars — McCusker, Biles, Hurd
Balance Beam — Eaker, McCusker, Biles
Floor Exercise — Biles, McCallum, McCusker
Alternate: Smith

If it went off best average scores from the U.S. Championships and Thursday’s camp, it would be:

Vault — Biles, McCallum, Hurd
Uneven Bars — McCusker, Biles, Hurd
Balance Beam — Biles, Eaker, McCusker
Floor Exercise — Biles, McCallum, Hurd/McCusker (tie)
Alternate: Smith

A look at each of the six gymnasts:

Simone Biles
Four-time Olympic champion
Three-time world all-around champion
Undefeated for five years in the all-around

An overwhelming favorite for a fourth world all-around title, which would break her tie with Russian Svetlana Khorkina for the most titles by a woman. Biles has a chance to earn medals in every event after she swept the five golds at the U.S. Championships in August. The toughest is uneven bars, the only event Biles did not earn a medal in Rio (and has never done so at a worlds).

Morgan Hurd
2017 World all-around champion
2018 U.S. all-around silver medalist

The surprise world’s best gymnast in 2017. The Delaware resident went from fifth at 2016 junior nationals to sixth at 2017 senior nationals to winning the world all-around title in Montreal last October. She’s followed that with a strong season, winning the American Cup in March and placing second to Biles at nationals. However, McCusker beat Hurd at the U.S. Classic in July, and McCusker and McCallum outscored her at the selection camp.

Ragan Smith
2017 U.S. all-around champion
2016 Olympic alternate

Smith looked unlikely to make this team back at nationals in August. She placed 10th there, competing with broken toes and lingering pain from an ankle injury that knocked her out of the 2017 Worlds, where she was the favorite. She bounced back at the selection camp with a fifth-place finish. Smith is an all-arounder, but with Biles, Hurd and McCusker posting the top scores this season, it would be hard to get into all four events at worlds, assuming she isn’t named the alternate. Smith is coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal.

Riley McCusker
2017, 2018 U.S. all-around bronze medalist

McCusker made her first world team after withdrawing before last year’s selection camp with an injury. She was second to Biles at the U.S. Classic in July and the selection camp Thursday, making a strong bid to join Biles in the all-around in Doha. It looks to come down to Hurd and McCusker for that second and last all-around spot in the world final. McCusker is coached by Maggie Haney, who guided Laurie Hernandez to the Rio Olympics.

Grace McCallum
2018 U.S. all-around, fourth place

With Eaker, one of two first-year seniors on the world team. Last year’s promising juniors were Maile O’Keefe and Emma Malabuyo, whose scores at 2017 Nationals would have placed second and third in the senior division. But neither O’Keefe nor Malabuyo were healthy for the whole selection season and didn’t make it to the camp. Enter McCallum, who was 11th at 2017 junior nationals before her senior breakout in August. She was third in the selection camp all-around and second to Biles on floor exercise.

Kara Eaker
2018 U.S. balance beam silver medalist

Eaker, 15 years old like McCallum, was third at 2017 junior nationals but has established herself within the U.S. senior team as one of its best beam workers. Only Biles outscored her there at nationals, and she had the highest score in the selection camp all-around on beam by 1.05 points. If neither is the alternate, Eaker and McCallum would be the first pair of 15-year-olds to compete at an Olympics or worlds for the U.S. since Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney in 2011.

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Simone Biles wins every gold medal at U.S. Championships

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BOSTON — All the gold medals for Simone Biles.

Biles, in the second meet of her comeback, won her record fifth U.S. all-around title and swept the four apparatus titles, combining scores from Friday and Sunday at TD Garden.

She never thought it would be possible, but she also wants to work on pre-meet nerves, consistency and confidence.

“I’d give it a B-plus,” Biles told Andrea Joyce on NBC.

The four-time Rio Olympic gold medalist became the first woman to win all five golds at the national gymnastics championships since Dominique Dawes in 1994.

She won the all-around by 6.55 points over 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd, the largest margin since the perfect-10 system was thrown out in 2006. That gap is larger than that separating Hurd from the 11th-place gymnast.

“I knew I was capable of [scoring this well], but I kind of thought I was going to be a nervous wreck and maybe fall apart,” said Biles, who wore a teal mint leotard in part to stand with fellow Larry Nassar sexual-abuse survivors (teal ribbons were worn at NCAA meets in the winter and spring). “Going into these events, I know I kept telling my family like I don’t know if I’m going to be able to calm myself down the way I did before and handle the nerves, but so far, so good.”

Biles led by 3.1 points after a dominant first day Friday.

At 21, she is the first non-teen to win the U.S. women’s all-around since 1971.

“She’s just in another league almost,” third-place Riley McCusker said. “I’m honestly just in awe of her.”

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After Rio, Biles took 14 months before returning to training last November under new coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi. She returned to competition three weeks ago, winning the U.S. Classic with an uneven bars fall.

No falls over two days at nationals. Just three floor exercise passes that went out of bounds (because of Biles’ otherworldly tumbling power), plus small errors on uneven bars and balance beam Sunday. Biles won her first national title on uneven bars, the only event on which she did not earn a medal in Rio or at any world championships.

Before Biles, the Landis were known for coaching Madison Kocian to uneven bars silver in Rio. Laurent Landi recognized perhaps the biggest obstacle in Biles’ comeback is not among her competition or any apparatus, but between the ears.

“To handle the pressure, to handle the media, to handle everybody, all the expectation, that’s mentally draining,” he said.

Biles has repeated this spring and summer that she feels like a better gymnast than in Rio. The Texan is on a five-year win streak with the only end in sight being her planned retirement after the Tokyo Olympics.

“Confidence-wise and consistency, I still think we have a ways to go to get back up to where I was in Rio, but gymnastics-wise, [better than in 2016],” Biles said. “I think I’m finally starting to get it and understand it. I’ve understood gymnastics for a while now, but I think it’s really sinking in.”

Biles is a shoo-in for October’s world championships team. The five-woman squad will be named after an October selection camp.

Hurd and McCusker are also in great position. Jade Carey, the 2017 World silver medalist on floor exercise and vault, could be a contributor on both events at worlds in Doha.

Ragan Smith, who won the 2017 U.S. all-around in Biles’ absence, is in danger of missing that team. She finished 10th in the all-around, competing with broken toes and lingering pain from an ankle injury that knocked her out of the 2017 Worlds, where she was the favorite.

No doubting who the favorite is this year. Biles owns the world’s best all-around score since Rio by more than two points. Could she sweep the gold medals as she did at nationals?

“It’s irrelevant,” Laurent Landi said. “I think you just need to do what she today … and see what we get at the end. We don’t aim to win. I think it’s bad to think about winning. I think it’s much more important to think about what she needs to accomplish for herself. If at the end she wins, then she wins.”

Aly Raisman, who staged her own successful comeback to make the Rio Olympics, told Biles on Saturday night that she’s not human. Biles was asked Sunday what her international competitors must be thinking.

“Maybe that I should probably quit,” she said, followed by giggles.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Biles fell off the balance beam at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago. She fell off the uneven bars.

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