Biles shines with new skills as U.S. women take aim at World team title
posted on 10/05/2019

© John Cheng

STUTTGART, Germany, Oct. 5, 2019 -- Simone Biles made history as she nailed her two new elements for the first time on the international stage as the U.S. women shot to the top of the standings in the qualifying round at the World Gymnastics Championships Saturday, finishing a comfortable five points ahead of China.

Comfortable, but not complacent.

“I still feel like I can do better,” said Biles, who tallied 59.432 points to qualify in first place to the all-around final, where she will vie for an unprecedented fifth world crown. “My goal going into tonight was to not be great,” she continued. “It wasn’t to do great, it was to do well, and I feel like I accomplished that.”

“Well” might be an understatement. Biles’s triple twisting double tuck opening tumbling run in the floor exercise electrified the near-capacity crowd inside the arena following stellar routines from Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey. The 22-year-old nailed her new double twisting double tuck dismount off balance beam as well. Both skills will henceforth bear her name in the women’s Code of Points. The triple double will be known as the Biles II, joining the double layout with a half out tumbling skill that was named for Biles in 2013.

Overall, the United States totaled 174.205, sailing past the high set by China, 169.161, on the opening day of qualifications. Russia, the defending world team silver medalist, turned in an impressive performance Saturday afternoon for 168.080 and third. France, Canada, the Netherlands, Great Britain and Italy will also compete in the team final.

Biles was her rock solid, rock-star self on all apparatus, scoring a 14.800 on balance beam and 14.833 on floor to qualify in first place to both event finals. Though not terribly pleased about her effort on the uneven bars, she still earned a 14.733, good enough for seventh and another final. On vault, Carey and Biles each landed a Cheng and an Amanar to qualify 1-2 into the event final, a mere 0.01 separating Carey’s 15.2 average from Biles’s 15.199.

Having only competed at a World Championships that didn’t have a team competition, Carey, the 2017 silver medalist on vault, drank in the energy and excitement of being on the floor with Team USA. “I’ve been very excited here. I just really wanted to make it for my team and make them know that I can hit when I need to,” she said.

How did it feel to top Simone Biles on one of her best events? Carey, a soft-spoken 19-year-old from Arizona, demurred. “Right now I’m still taking one thing at a time. We’ll see what happens and what’s going to be next,” she said.

Big things are likely in the works for 16-year-old Sunisa Lee too. In her rookie Worlds, the first-year senior remained calm and collected across all four events, tallying 57.166 points to qualify to the all-around final in second place behind Biles. Lee said she was proud of her recovery after a fall off the balance beam on the first of her daring acrobatic flight sequences, but was most pleased with her uneven bars performance, where she hit her full-difficulty routine to advance to the final in third place with a 15.000.

“I’m really happy with my bars, just because I feel like bars is one of my better events and I’m more nervous for that one,” she said. “In podium training I missed connections, and I didn’t do my one and a half pirouette, but I made my whole routine today and I’m really happy about it.” Lee will also take part in the floor final, where her routine received 14.200, second only to Biles.

McCallum’s 55.906 placed her fifth in the overall standings, though due to the rule that only allows the top two gymnasts per country to compete in individual finals, only Lee and Biles will participate in Thursday’s women’s all-around final.

Kara Eaker bolstered the team with her elegant presence on the balance beam, where she hit her routine for 13.466 points. A world finalist last year, she is first reserve for the final in 2019. “It feels really good just being up on the stage and showing people that I’m still here, that I can still do this, that this is what I’ve got,” she said.

McCallum, who turned in beautiful and steady work as she led the U.S. off on floor exercise, dropped off the balance beam on a complicated three-element series after solid performances on floor, vault and bars. The fall taught her a lesson in second-guessing herself that she’ll apply in the team final. “On beam my warm-up kind of frazzled me a little bit, and I didn’t know what to do, so that kind of got me,” she said.

For the second straight year, Biles will participate in all four apparatus finals, giving her the chance to be the first woman in half a century to earn six medals at consecutive world championships. Like Carey, she too will take things one step at a time -- literally.

“Vault, I don’t even know what that was. I wasn’t even doing the right steps,” she said. “I have to go look at a video to see my steps.”