Simone Biles waits to perform her floor exercise at U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Aug. 19, 2018 in Boston.
Simone Biles and Morgan Hurd will lead a five-woman U.S. team into the gymnastics world championships, USA Gymnastics announced on Friday.
Biles, the defending Olympic all-around champion, and Hurd, who won last year’s world title, are joined by Kara Eaker, Grace McCallum, Riley McCusker and Ragan Smith, with one being designated the alternate prior to the event, which begins Oct. 25 and runs through Nov. 4 in Doha, Qatar.
Including Biles and Hurd, who finished 1-2 at the national championships in August, was a foregone conclusion, with high-performance director Tom Forster saying afterward that “it’d be silly to think they don’t make it.”
McCusker, who bounced back from an injury-riddled 2017 to finish third at nationals, was also seen as a shoo-in, a decision likely made easier after she finished second to Biles during a selection camp competition on Thursday in Florida.
McCallum improved to third at the selection camp after finishing fourth at nationals. Eaker, who is expected to focus primarily on balance beam, scored a season-best 15.15 on the event Thursday, which was easily top among the field.
They’ll be joined in Doha by Smith, the 2016 Olympic alternate who has battled injuries since winning the 2017 national title. Showing some of her old form, she finished fifth on Thursday, scoring more than a point higher than at nationals.
Want to learn to curl like the pros? Looking for breaking news, videos, Olympic and Paralympic team bios all at your fingertips? Download the Team USA app today.
Jordan Chiles, Shilese Jones and Alyona Shchennikova also competed Thursday.
Headlining the team, however, is no doubt Biles. The 21-year-old dominated the sport during the last Olympic quad, culminating in winning four gold medals and one bronze at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Returning to competition this summer, Biles picked up where she left off, cruising to a national title in a field that included last year’s world champ Hurd.
That continued on Thursday. Though she put her hand down on her balance beam dismount, Biles cleaned up some of the mistakes she made on floor exercise at nationals and debuted a new vault, scoring a massive 16.0. According to a database kept by thegymter.net, the previous best vault score this year was Biles’ 15.6 at nationals.
With an all-around score of 59.7, Biles on Thursday trailed only herself at nationals. The next best all-around scores in the world are in the 57s.
This year’s world championships include a team competition, as well as individual competitions in the all-around and on the four apparatuses. Four gymnasts per country compete in the qualification round, with the top three scores counting toward the team score, but three compete and all three scores count in the team final. Up to two gymnasts per country can also qualify for individual finals.
The U.S. women are looking to keep up a run of dominance at the Olympics and world championships, where they’ve won every team title since 2011. During that time they’ve also won 29 individual world championships medals and 12 individual Olympic medals, with Biles accounting for 15 of them.
A U.S. woman has also won all but two Olympic and world all-around title since 2004, missing out only in 2006 and 2010. Biles has three of those world titles and the most recent Olympic title.
One gymnast who won’t be in Doha is Jade Carey. Last year’s world silver medalist on floor and vault, Carey withdrew from consideration for this year’s team so she can remain eligible to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 as an individual. Under the new Olympic format, teams will have four gymnasts — as opposed to five in previous Games — and two others can qualify individually.
Carey’s father and coach, Brian Carey, told NBC Sports that if Jade competed on this year’s world team and it finished among the top three — thus qualifying the U.S. team for Tokyo — then she wouldn’t be able to compete for an individual Olympic spot, an option she wants to keep open.
Despite Carey’s absence, the U.S. should still have plenty of medal potential in Doha. In fact, Biles might very well enter the competition as the favorite to sweep the individual events, as she did at nationals. Since returning, she’s turned her weakest event, uneven bars, into a bona fide strength. It’s the only apparatus in which she’s never won a world or Olympic medal.
Outside of Biles, both Hurd and McCusker could challenge for all-around medals. Hurd, the defending world silver medalist on balance beam, should be a contender again, as could Eaker, while McCusker could challenge for a podium spot on uneven bars.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009, including the gymnastics national championships and Olympic trials every year since 2011, on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.