GYMNASTICS: U.S. women win fourth straight Worlds team title

The 2018 World Champion U.S. women: Kara Eaker, Grace McCallum, Simone Biles, Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker, and alternate Ragan Smith (Photo: USA Gymnastics, by John Cheng)

For the fourth straight time, the United States women’s gymnastics team won the Team All-Around title at the FIG World Championships, being held in Doha (QAT) and in utterly dominating, historic fashion.

Not only did the U.S. team of Simone Biles, Kara Eaker, Morgan Hurd, Riley McCusker and Grace McCallum won the overall title, but they won on all four apparatus: Vault, Uneven Bars, Balance Beam and Floor Exercise, the first time this has been done since the USSR in 1991!

Moreover, the U.S. margin of victory was the biggest of its four straight World Championship golds:

∙ 2017: 171.629 Doha (2. Russia, 162.863; +8.766)
∙ 2015: 181.338 Glasgow (2. China, 176.164; +5.174)
∙ 2014: 179.280 Nanning (2. China, 172.587; +6.693)
∙ 2011: 179.411 Tokyo (2. Russia, 175.329; +4.082)

How outstanding is this? Consider that the U.S. margin of victory of 8.766 points is the most since 1958 (!), when the USSR team piled up 381.620 points to finish 9.765 ahead of Czechoslovakia (371.855). True, the Code of Points in use today makes this possible – no more 10.00 limit – but the chasm between the U.S. and the rest of the world is breathtaking.

Moreover, the four straight for the U.S. is the best streak at the World Championships since the five consecutive wins by Romania in 1994-95-97-99-2001. No other country has won four straight. The U.S. run of six Worlds Team titles in the last eight has only been bested by the USSR’s run of 11 out of 14 between 1954-91.

Also: the U.S. did not use Ragan Smith, who is the alternate; she was last year’s national champion and the favorite for the 2017 Worlds All-Around title until suffering an injury in warm-ups! One more note on the depth of the American women’s team: only Biles returns from any of the prior three winning squads from 2011-14-15 (she was on the 2014-15 teams).

Biles was the only one on the U.S. team to compete in all four events and piled up an “All-Around” score of 58.865, which would have been second in the qualifying round only to her own score of 60.965 (Hurd was next at 56.465 in qualifying). Biles, despite having a kidney stone, is closing in on multiple World Championships medal records:

∙ In her fourth World Championships, she now has 15 total medals, tied for second with Soviet Larisa Latynina (9-4-1 from 1954-66) and is five behind the 20 collected by Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina (9-8-3 from 1994-2003). If Biles were to medal in the All-Around (yes) and all four apparatus finals (possible), she would equal Khorkina’s career total … at age 21.

∙ Biles already owns the record for the most World Championships golds, as the Team title gave her an 11th victory. Khorkina, Latynina and Gina Gogean (ROU: 1993-97) each won nine.

∙ In terms of individual-event medals – All-Around and the apparatus – Biles has 12 (8-2-2) and is tied for second with Gogean (6-2-4). If Biles should win the All-Around (yes) and medal in all four apparatus finals, she would surpass Khorkina’s total of 16. Biles has eight individual-event golds to Khorkina’s nine and will likely surpass her on Doha, unless the kidney stone fells her.

Is Biles the greatest women’s gymnast of all time? It’s worth considering … after we finish in Doha.

By winning, the U.S. women qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The U.S. men showed well, but missed the last qualifying spot (and the bronze medal) by 1.750 points to finish fourth.

The American team of Sam Mikulak, Akash Modi, Yul Muldauer, Colin van Wicklen and Alec Yoder finished second among all teams on Floor, was third on Pommel Horse and Horizontal Bar, but was fourth in the Parallel Bars, fifth on Vault and sixth on Rings.

“We really had a shot at a medal there, and we did an awesome job, we really did,” said Yoder. “I was raging for these guys, and to be able to see these guys perform the way they did was amazing. I’m so proud. I’m so proud to be on this team.”

Added Modi, “We knew we needed to go 18 for 18 to get on the podium, and the results showed that we were 1.8 behind, so [without mistakes] we would have been right up there. I’m feeling pretty great, but definitely not settling.”

China continued its run as the top men’s team, winning the World title for the 11th time in the last 13 editions, and seven of the last eight. Russia and Japan went 2-3 and qualified for the 2020 Games.

The remaining schedule:

31 October: Men’s All-Around final
01 November: Women’s All-Around final
02 November: Apparatus finals
(Men: Floor/Pommel Horse/Rings; Women: Vault/Uneven Bars)
03 November: Apparatus finals
(Men: Vault/Parallel Bars/Horizontal Bar; Women: Beam/Floor)

In the individual All-Around final coming up on Wednesday, defending champion Ruoteng Xiao (CHN) led the qualifying with 87.332 points, slightly ahead of Russia’s Nikita Nagornyy (87.098) and Sam Mikulak (USA: 86.598). The U.S. also qualified Yul Moldauer, 17th with 80.365.

Mikulak will compete in the individual finals later in the week on Floor, Pommel Horse, Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bar. Moldauer qualified for the individual final on Floor.

The women’s All-Around will feature Biles, who led the qualifying with 60.965 points, ahead of fellow American and defending World All-Around Champion Morgan Hurd (56.465) in second and Riley McCusker of the U.S. in eighth at 54.765. Biles also qualified for all four event finals, with Hurd in Uneven Bars and Floor and Kara Eaker on the Beam.

The NBC Olympic Channel has continuing Worlds coverage from Doha. Summaries so far:

FIG World Artistic Championships
Doha (QAT) ~ 25 October-3 November 2018
(Full results here )

Men

Team Qualifications (top 8 qualify for Final): 1. Russia, 258.402; 2. China., 257.836; 3. Japan, 253.312; 4. United States, 250.362; 5. Great Britain, 249.836; 6. Brazil, 246.961; 7. Netherlands, 245.663; 8. Switzerland, 245.186.

Team Final: 1. China (Shudi Deng, Chaopan Lin, Wei Sun, Ruoteng Xiao, Jingyuan Zou)), 256.634; 2. Russia (David Belyavskiy, Artur Dalaloyan, Nikolai Kuksenkov, mitrii Lankin, Nikita Nagornyy), 256.585; 3. Japan (Kazuma Kaya, Kenzo Shirai, Yusuke Tanaka, Wataru Tanigawa, Kohei Uchimura), 253.744; 4. United States (Sam Mikulak, Akash Modi, Yul Moldauer, Colin van Wicklen, Alec Yoder), 251.994; 5. Great Britain, 248.628; 6. Switzerland, 244.294; 7. Brazil, 243.994; 8. Netherlands, 240.660.

All-Around Qualifications (top 24 qualify for Final): 1. Ruoteng Xiao (CHN), 87.332; 2. Nikita Nagornyy (RUS), 87.098; 3. Sam Mikulak (USA), 86.598; 4. Artur Dalaloyan (RUS), 84.572; 5. Wei Sun (CHN), 84.007; 6. Kenzo Shirai (JPN), 83.864; 7. James Hall (GBR), 83.198; 8. Kazuma Kaya (JPN), 82.915. Also: 17. Yul Moldauer (USA), 80.365.

Women

Team Qualifications (top 8 qualify for Final): 1. United States, 174.429; 2. Russia, 165.497; 3. China, 165.196; 4. Canada, 163.897; 5. Brazil, 162.529; 6. Japan, 162.180; 7. France, 161.629; 8. Germany, 161.071.

Team Final: 1. United States (Simone Biles, Riley McCusker, Morgan Hurd, Kara Eaker, Grace McCallum), 171.629; 2. Russia (Liliia Akhaimova, Irina Alekseeva, Angelina Melnikova, Aliia Mustafina, Angelina Simakova), 162.863; 4. China (Yile Chen, Tingting Liu, Jinru Liu, Huan Luo, Jin Zhang), 162.396; 4. Canada, 161.644; 5. France, 161.294; 6. Japan, 160.262; 7. Brazil, 159.830; 8. Germany, 159.428.

All-Around Qualifications (top 24 qualify for Final): 1. Simone Biles (USA), 60.965; 2. Morgan Hurd (USA), 56.465; 3. Mai Murakami (JPN), 55.632; 4. Nina Derwael (BEL), 55.564; 5. Angelina Melnikova (RUS), 55.465; 6. Ellie Black (CAN), 54.999; 7. Melanie de Jesus dos Santos (FRA), 54.798; 8. Riley McCusker (USA), 54.765.

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