When the United States Gymnastics team landed in Doha, Qatar, two weeks ago, they had one thought on their minds: The women’s team had won the last four World Championship team titles, and they didn’t want to be the squad that broke the streak.
Team USA did more than just retain the team championship — they broke several induvial records along the way at the 48th FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships.
That includes Simone Biles, who finished the competition as the most decorated female gymnast in World Championships history.
“There’s a lot to be proud of,” Biles said. “But I’m most proud that I’m here, made all of the event finals, medaled in all of the events and I survived.”
Team USA won the team title with a score of 171.629. That was more than enough to hold off Russia and China, who finished second and third, respectively. The top three teams automatically earned a spot in the 2020 Summer Olympics.
“We worked very hard to be where we are,” Biles said. “I’m excited I could cheer them on and make them believe in themselves.”
Biles started off the World Championships with a trip to the hospital after enduring a kidney stone. But once the Springs, Texas, native set her mind on competing, there didn’t seem to be anything her competitors or doctor could do to stop her from dominating.
Biles advanced to the medal portion of every apparatus and became the first American in history to win a medal in all four event finals. She is the first gymnast to perform the feet since the former Soviet Union's Yelena Shushunova did so in 1987.
Biles finished the championships with gold medals in floor exercises, all-around, team, and vault, along with a silver in uneven bars and a bronze in the balance beam. She tied Svetlana Khorkina's record for 20 career World Championships medals.
“I am definitely very happy, especially to win a medal in every event,” Biles said. “No matter what color the medal, I’m really proud of myself. It feels really rewarding because I’ve put a lot of hard work and dedication into this sport, so I couldn’t be happier. I’m really proud of my performances here. I wish some of them would have been better but I’m really proud of the outcome.”
Joining Biles in the medal count was teammate Morgan Hurd. She tallied three total medals. That included taking the silver on the floor exercises behind Biles’ gold.
“I definitely didn’t expect to beat her. Her difficulty is much higher, and she is such an amazing gymnast,” Hurd said. “There was no way. I just wanted to go out there and perform my absolute best routine.”
One year after winning the gold in the all-around, Hurd took home the bronze in the event this year.
“Last year it was my first time, so I did not really know what to expect,” Hurd said. “This year I came in basically as a veteran, and I had a lot more expectations of myself.”
Hurd also didn’t have to contend with Biles last year, who sat the 2017 competition. But despite competing against each other in every event, Biles says the two champions also supported each other.
“It’s very important to cheer for each other because we’ve been training for this competition for so long,” Biles said. “It’s very exciting to be out there with her, and we’re excited that we brought hardware back.”
But even more than the medal count and titles, the biggest job Biles and Hurd had at Qatar was preparing their younger teammates to carry the torch for American Gymnastics. Once again, that job seems to have been accomplished as well.
“They definitely push you in the gym and make you work a lot harder, and make it a lot of fun,” said 16-year old Grace McCallum. “They have been here so they know what to do. They show you around and show you what to do.”
No one outside of Biles and Hurd medaled during the individual events at the World Championships. The closes was a sixth-place finish by Kara Eaker on the balance beam.
Yet, the experience of being around Hurd and Biles may have set them up to cross the threshold at the 2019 World Championships or 2020 Olympics.
“Watching them in the gym is really inspiring,” Eaker said. “Watching their determination and confidence, even though they make mistakes, I know they can keep going. It makes me more determined to keep going.”