The U.S. women aren’t perfect, after all. Their streak is, however.
The Americans won their fifth consecutive title at the world championships Tuesday despite having to count a fall for the first time in almost a decade. The five titles in a row ties a record set by Romania from 1994 to 2001.
The win also gives Simone Biles her 21st medal at worlds, most for a female gymnast. Only Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus has more, and his record of 23 is all but certain to fall before this meet is over. Biles is all but assured of winning the all-around title Thursday, and she qualified for all four event finals.
As Biles finished a dazzling final floor routine, soaring so high on her opening triple-twisting, double somersault pass she could have dusted off the lights, the rest of the Americans were screaming and jumping up and down. They greeted Biles with bear hugs as she came off the podium, and hugged her again when her score posted.
The Americans finished with 172.330 points, almost six points ahead of Russia. Italy won the bronze medal — its first appearance on the podium as a team since 1950. China, second in qualifying, was fourth.
The Americans have won every world and Olympic title dating to 2011. Having Biles, the greatest gymnast of her or any other generation, helps. But the other Americans aren’t exactly slouches, and it would take a near-perfect day from another country just to make a run at the U.S. in the three-up, three-count team finals format.
No one was even close on a day filled with splats and sprawls galore.
China had to count falls on both uneven bars and balance beam, while Russia had to count two falls on balance beam. And they’re the best in the world after the Americans.
That the United States also counted a fall was stunning. They might have bobbles and wobbles, but it’s believed they haven’t had an actual fall in team finals at worlds or the Olympics since 2010. That streak ended on balance beam, when Sunisa Lee fell on a back layout.
By that point, however, the Americans had the title all but wrapped up. Actually, it was wrapped up after the first event, vault.
Biles is the reigning world and Olympic champion on vault, and Jade Carey leads the World Cup standings on the event. They do the most difficult vaults — and they do them better than their competitors who are doing easier ones.
Carey’s Cheng — a roundoff onto the takeoff board, a half-twist onto the table followed by a laid-out front somersault with one-and-a-half twists – was solid, the only flaw a small hop on the landing, and she scored a 15.166. Biles did her one better, getting so much hang time she landed closer to the end of the mat than the front.
Her score of 15.4 was the highest of the meet on any event, and the Americans left vault with a 1 1/2 -point lead. Any hope China and Russia had of chipping away at the gap disappeared in the second rotation. Liliia Akhaimova and Anastasia Agafonova both fell off beam, while Liu Tingting, China’s anchor on uneven bars, fell twice.
SOURCE: USA Today – Nancy Armour