Five-star performance earns U.S. women fifth consecutive World gold
posted on 10/08/2019

© John Cheng

By Blythe Lawrence

STUTTGART, Germany, Oct. 8 -- In claiming their fifth consecutive World team title Tuesday afternoon, the American women continued a golden streak that dates back to 2011. And if the performance wasn’t entirely flawless, it was a testament to the team’s resilience that errors on uneven bars and balance beam didn’t derail Simone Biles, Jade Carey, Kara Eaker, Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallum from attaining their ultimate goal.

“I feel like it’s a lot different because we had a couple falls out there, but we still ended up on top. It was a little bit nerve-wracking, but it was kind of fun,” said Biles, who helped the Americans post the highest team scores on everything but uneven bars to accumulate 172.330 points overall, 5.8 ahead of silver medalist Russia. Italy, the eighth and final qualifier to the team competition, surprised for bronze with 164.796, its first women’s World team medal in 69 years.

Team gold comes packaged with all kinds of history for both the U.S. program and Biles. Not only have star-studded U.S. teams taken every World and Olympic team title for going on a decade, this victory matches the run of Romanian teams that dominated women’s gymnastics on the world level from 1994 to 2001.

Biles, who has already accumulated more gold at the World Gymnastics Championships than any other gymnast ever, now stands alone as the woman with the most World medals, distancing herself from Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina, who won 20 between 1994 and 2003. It also brings the 22-year-old superstar one closer to the record held by Vitaly Scherbo, whose 23 make him the all-time world leader.

“I guess it’s kind of crazy,” Biles said. “I didn’t really think about that. I think it’s really impressive for someone to be able to do that. I don’t know -- it’s kind of exhilarating but I think I haven’t had the chance to process it yet. I think we’re celebrating tonight, for all of this: for the team, for the medal count, for the fifth year in a row.”

The bedrock of Team USA, Biles anchored the U.S. on every event except bars in the unforgiving team finals format, where three gymnasts compete on each event and all scores count toward the team total. While a single fall can decimate a team’s chances, the U.S. has become known for its steadiness and large margins of victory, and Tuesday was no exception.

On vault, McCallum got the team started with a seamless double-twisting Yurchenko, while Carey and Biles followed up with two excellent Chengs to give the U.S. an early lead.

“It felt really good,” McCallum said. “I wanted to get the team off to a really good start, and I think I did that.” After the 16-year-old’s uncharacteristic mistake on bars, Biles and Lee stepped in with hit sets to keep the U.S. far and away in the lead. On beam, Eaker delivered a big 14.000, leaping ahead of her score from Saturday’s qualification, which was lowered by a superior jury that reviewed the routine following an inquiry into her difficulty score.

The highlight for Eaker? “Just being able to take the feedback from the judges from day one and apply it, and show that I can improve,” she said. “I’m honored to be able to compete with these girls and be up here on this stage, to be with them and support them and call them my teammates.”

Despite a fall off the beam from Lee following a 12-minute wait on the podium to begin her routine, the U.S. women remained calm as they collected the first gold of the championships. The Americans closed out the competition with three beautiful floor routines from Lee, Carey and Biles, who wowed with her superb triple-twisting double tuck opening tumbling pass to seal the deal with a whopping 15.333 on floor exercise.

“It was amazing. I almost started crying,” said Lee, who at 16 is competing at her first World Championships. “It feels so surreal and I just can’t even believe that I’m here and I’m a World champion now. It’s so cool.”

After incurring a 0.2 deduction for going out of bounds twice on floor in qualification, Biles was pleased she kept all her tumbling passes on the floor Tuesday. “In training, I never go out of bounds, so it’s kind of crazy how every time I go out and compete in a meet, I’m kind of all over the place,” she said. “I’m just happy I could do it like in training, calm.”

Stuttgart is the second Worlds but first gold for Carey, who earned two silvers in Montreal in 2017, an individual event World Championships that does not have a team competition. “Tonight was even more special than two years ago,” Carey commented. “I’m really proud of all of us just for pulling together, and even after a fall or a little mistake, I think we came back strong and hit a really good floor. I’m really proud.”