Formidable American Simone Biles etched her name into the history books by sealing a record third straight women’s individual all-around title with a display which still sparkled despite two uncharacteristic errors at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships here today.
The 18-year-old, part of the United States contingent which won the team gold medal in style on Tuesday (October 27), justified her billing as the red-hot favourite by posting a score of 60.399 points to lay down a marker for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
It was not a completely flawless performance from the United States competitor, however, as she so nearly came off the balance beam during the third rotation, holding on for dear life amid tense gasps from the crowd inside the Arena.
Biles then stepped out of bounds on the floor in her last routine but both mishaps ultimately proved irrelevant as she edged compatriot and reigning all-around Olympic champion Gabby Douglas, who ended 1.083 adrift on 59.316 to earn her first individual World Championships medal.
Romanian Larisa Iordache, silver medallist at the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China, elevated herself to bronze with a perfectly-executed display on the uneven bars, her final apparatus of the evening, rewarded with 14.800 to help her to an overall score of 59.107.
The night once again belonged, however, to the impregnable Biles, who dazzled her way to a hat-trick of world crowns, cementing her status as the best female gymnast on the planet.
“When I landed on the red I couldn’t believe it as I am usually nowhere near there,” Biles said.
“I overthought it a lot tonight because everyone was mentioning the three-peat and to get it is an amazing feeling.”
Biles, who does not turn 19 until March, started as she meant to go on with an impressive vault which yielded a score of 15.833, though she had European all-around champion Giulia Steingruber for close company after the Swiss scored 15.600 on the same apparatus.
A classy and efficient performance on the uneven bars, perhaps the trickiest of the four apparatus to master, put Biles firmly in control at the halfway stage ahead of compatriot Douglas, who appeared happy to remain in her dominant teammates’ shadow.
The double London 2012 gold medallist flew under the radar but posted consistent scores, while China’s Chunsong Shang and Iordache were locked in a two-way battle for bronze.
Biles’ near-fall, which may have been caused by the volume being raised due to the fact that home favourite Amy Tinkler had just completed her routine on the adjacent floor apparatus, left the door ever so slightly ajar for Douglas going into the last rotation.
The straight shoot-out for gold between the two Americans began with Douglas, though her chances of grasping the title from under the nose of Biles took a dent when her floor performance was given only 14.583 by the judges.
Just as had been the case the previous evening with Japan’s five-times men’s all-around champion Kōhei Uchimura, Biles, needing a score of 14.183 or higher to make history, took to the floor with all 8,000 eyes inside the venue locked solely on her routine, the last of the women’s all-around competition.
Though she stepped comfortably outside the permitted area early on, her display was still sprinkled with her usual panache and confidence and the wait for her score was purely the prelude to the inevitable as her score of 15.266 flashed up on the giant screen, crowning her world champion for the third year in a row.
Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina also won three women’s all-around World Championships golds but did not achieve the feat in successive years as she took the title in 1997, 2001 and 2003.
Liam Morgan, this article was republished with permission from the original publisher Inside the Games www.insidethegames.biz