Team USA celebrates on the podium following the women's team final at the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 8, 2019 in Stuttgart, Germany.
Gymnastics has never quite had a closer like Simone Biles.
Then again, the sport has never really had a gymnast like Biles, either.
With the U.S. women’s gymnastics team coming off a rare fall in the team final of the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Tuesday in Stuttgart, Germany, Biles mounted the balance beam and did what only she can do.
At the conclusion of her typically rock-solid routine, the two-time balance beam world champion ended with the double-twisting, double backflip dismount that no other woman has even attempted.
And just like that, the swagger was back.
Not that there was ever much question.
With Biles closing out three of the four rotations, the U.S. overcame mistakes on uneven bars and balance beam to still run away with its fifth consecutive world team title, tying a record set by Romania from 1994 to 2001.
The U.S. won with 172.330 points, outscoring second-place Russia by 5.801 points and third-place Italy by 7.534.
The Americans have now won every Olympic or world team title since 2011, a stretch that includes two Olympic titles as well as now five world titles. This is also the program’s seventh world title, with all of them coming since 2003.
Biles, as expected, was the star.
The only U.S. gymnast to compete on every apparatus on Tuesday, when each team puts up three gymnasts and all three scores count, Biles posted the top scores of the day on vault, balance beam and floor exercise.
The win also gives Biles 15 world titles for her career, extending her own record, as well as her record-setting 21st world championships medal. She had been tied with Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina for the most medals among women, and now trails only Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo for the all-time record of 23 medals. Biles also won four gold medals and a bronze at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
With the all-around final Thursday and all four event finals this weekend, she’s expected to leave Stuttgart as the most decorated gymnast in world championships history.
First, though, there was business to take care of in the team final.
After posting the best score in the qualifying round, the U.S. started the team final on its highest-scoring event, and after strong performances from Grace McCallum, Jade Carey and Biles, the U.S. jumped out to an early 1.501-point lead over the field. Both Biles and Carey performed the ultra-difficult Cheng vault, and theirs proved to be the top two scores of the day on the event.
Moving on to uneven bars, McCallum lost her momentum and needed an extra swing to finish her routine, resulting in a full-point deduction. However, that was more than made up for by mistakes from Chinese and Russian gymnasts, as well as strong performances from Biles and Sunisa Lee, sending Team USA into the midway point with a massive 3.767-point lead.
At that point, the U.S. just needed to avoid catastrophe to secure another world title.
Kara Eaker opened the balance beam for Team USA. After her inquiry during the qualifying round resulted in her score being not upgraded but actually downgraded, and knocking her out of the event final in the process, Eaker came back with a solid rebound performance to close out her world championships.
However, in the next routine, Lee fell off the beam while performing a back handspring.
That’s when Biles came in and changed the momentum going into the final rotation.
And with the U.S. closing on floor exercise, the event ended with a celebration. Strong performances from Lee and Carey preceded Biles, who opened with another unprecedented skill, the triple-twisting, double backflip, in her first tumbling pass.
At the end of her routine, Biles, who had displayed a steely demeanor throughout the competition, finally let out a big smile. It was her fourth team world title. Biles, Carey and Lee posted the first, second and third best scores on floor to secure yet another Team USA world title.
Biles’ two new skills, which she also successfully performed in the qualifying round, are expected to take her name following the world championships. She already has two eponymous skills, which are awarded to the gymnast who performs them for the first time at a major championship.
The competition continues for three of the U.S. women. Biles and Lee will go after all-around titles on Thursday, having finished 1-2 during qualifications. Biles also qualified for all four individual apparatus finals this weekend, while Lee qualified for floor and uneven bars, and Carey qualified for vault.
Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic Movement for TeamUSA.org since 2009, including the gymnastics national championships and Olympic trials since 2011, on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.