The U.S. women’s gymnastics team jumped out to a 2.7-point lead after the first rotation and never looked back as it cruised to victory Tuesday at the world championships in Doha, Qatar.
Team USA scored 171.629, besting second-place Russia, which scored 162.863 points. China was third with 162.396 points. The margin between gold and silver was the largest under the 12-year-old scoring system.
With the win, the U.S. has now won every Olympic and world team title dating back to 2011, and it also secured a berth into the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. The top three teams in Doha earned Olympic qualification, although the gymnasts who make up that team won’t be selected until that summer.
Competing on all four events, Simone Biles led the way for the five-woman U.S. team. Biles, who returned to the sport this summer after winning an American record 19 Olympic and world medals during the last quad, qualified to all five team finals in Doha, with the top score in the all-around and on three apparatuses. On uneven bars, she qualified second.
Joining her on the U.S. team was Morgan Hurd, last year’s world all-around champion, who competed on three events Tuesday. Grace McCallum, who turned 16 on Tuesday, and Riley McCusker each did two events, while Kara Eaker performed only on balance beam.
Following a dominant performance in qualifying, when the U.S. outscored the field by nearly nine points, the team’s high-performance coordinator, Tom Forster, released a lineup with a few twists. Whereas in the three-up, three-count format teams typically work up to their best gymnast on each event, the U.S.’ dominance allowed the team to take some risks. Most notably, McCusker got a spot on balance beam despite a fall during qualifications. That meant Hurd, who won a world silver medal on the event last year, was not in the lineup for that event.
“Riley has a higher start value and has been training great every day,” Forster wrote, “and we all believe in her, so she is going on beam.”
Hurd also elected to go first on floor exercise, Forster said, whereas based on scores she typically would have gone second.
In the end, with this U.S. team the lineup hardly mattered.
Biles opened with a 15.500 on vault, joining McCallum and Hurd to score 44.666 points on the event. China, the next best team in the first rotation, had 41.966 points. No team got close to the U.S. after that.
On uneven bars, Hurd scored 14.433, McCusker 14.500 and Biles 14.866 to extend the lead to 4.666.
“Six routines, six hits, and their confidence looks really good,” Forster said in a USA Gymnastics video going into the third rotation.
That continued on balance beam, as McCusker, Eaker and Biles combined to score 41.799, even as Biles had to touch the beam to avoid a fall. That sent the Americans into the final rotation with a 6.533 lead.
The U.S. ended on floor exercise, with Hurd, McCallum and Biles performing. Despite some mistakes by Hurd, Biles took the floor needing essentially just to compete to secure a fourth straight team gold. The four-time Olympic champ did much more than that, closing out the competition with a 14.766 — despite stepping out of bounds on her first tumbling pass.
The world championships continue through Saturday. Biles and Hurd will compete for the all-around title on Thursday and the uneven bars title on Friday. Biles will also go for her first vault world title on Friday. On Saturday, Biles and Hurd go for floor exercise medals, while Biles and Eaker compete for balance beam medals.
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.