Simone Biles reacts after her routine in women's vault final at the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Oct. 12, 2019 in Stuttgart, Germany.
Simone Biles defended her world title in vault on Saturday, and in doing so she tied the all-time record by winning her 23rd career medal at the gymnastics world championships.
The 22-year-old Biles, who had already won team and all-around gold medals earlier this week at the FIG World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, kept the winning streak going on vault before finishing fifth in the uneven bars final. She’ll have two more opportunities for medals as the competition wraps up Sunday.
Teammate Jade Carey finished second vault, earning her fourth career world championships medal. Fellow American Sunisa Lee, competing in her first world championships, finished third on uneven bars to claim her first individual medal at the event.
Each gymnast performs twice during the vault finals.
Competing second of eight athletes, Biles opened with the ultra-difficult Cheng, and despite a hop back on the landing she was able to stay in bounds to score 15.333.
Next she performed the Amanar, another extremely difficult vault that she made look easy. Performing the vault nearly flawlessly, she earned an execution score of 9.666 out of 10 for a final score of 15.466. Her two vaults together averaged 15.399.
Carey, competing last, came closest. Performing the same two vaults as Biles, she had a small hop back on her Cheng and took a large step off the side of the mat on her Amanar. Nonetheless, her two-vault average score was 14.833. The silver medal was Carey’s third at the world championships and second on vault. She took silvers in vault and floor exercise in 2017, in addition to the team gold earlier this week.
Ellie Downie of Great Britain finished third with a score of 14.816.
The world title was Biles’ second on vault, after also winning in 2018. She had previously won silver medals on the event in 2013 and 2014, as well as a bronze in 2015. She also won the 2016 Olympic gold medal on vault — one of four gold medals she won in Rio.
Shortly after collecting her vault medal, Biles was back along with Lee for the uneven bars final.
While Biles has dominated the sport since her senior debut in 2013, uneven bars had long been considered her “weak” event — very relatively speaking. However, since returning last year from a post-Olympic break, Biles has taken the next step on uneven bars and won her first world championships medal on the event in 2018, a bronze.
Competing first on Saturday, Biles was strong throughout her routine and, despite letting go late on her stuck her double-double dismount to score 14.700.
However, three of the next four competitors outscored the Texan, ending her hopes for winning the maximum six medals for the second year in a row.
One of those who surpassed Biles was 16-year-old Lee of St. Paul, Minnesota. Lee, whose father John was paralyzed in August and just released from the hospital this week, has nonetheless been a breakout star for the U.S. team this summer. Two days after falling on the uneven bars in the all-around finals, where she finished eighth, Lee hit her routine to score 14.800, which held on for the bronze medal.
Belgium’s Nina Derwael defended her uneven bars world title with a score of 15.233, while Great Britain's Becky Downie (Ellie’s older sister) was second with a score of 15.000.
With 23 world championships medals to her name, Biles is now tied with Belarus’ Vitaly Scherbo for the most ever. She already held the record for most world titles, a tally that now stands at 17.
Biles won’t have to wait long for an opportunity to surpass Scherbo and become the most decorated gymnast at the event. She also qualified for Sunday’s balance beam and floor exercise finals on Sunday. Biles has never finished lower than first on floor exercise at the world championships or Olympics, and she’s won two balance beam world titles as well.
Lee also qualified for the floor finals, while fellow American Kara Eaker will join Biles on balance beam. Sam Mikulak, competing on his 27th birthday, will also go for a high bar medal on Sunday.
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.