ANTWERP ― Simone Biles claimed her 20th world title as she continued her return from a two-year break to lead the United States to a seventh straight women’s team gold at the world gymnastics championships in Antwerp, AFP reported.
The USA extended their domination going back to 2011, in the absence of Russia, the last team to beat them in a major competition.
“It’s crazy, we still pulled it out, I’m really proud of the team,” said Biles.
“It’s the seventh title in a row for the United States. For some girls, it’s their first World Championship, I’m excited to share that with them.”
The Americans scored 167.729 points to take gold ahead of Brazil (165.530) with Olympic hosts France winning bronze (164.064).
“She’s the leader, having someone so inspiring and so encouraging… Team USA came together and we did what we needed to do tonight,” said Biles’ teammate Shilese Jones.
The team victory gives Biles her 26th world medal and a record-extending 20th world title.
And she could extend that tally as she is still in the running for five other podiums in Antwerp.
The Texan has made an impressive comeback, two years after the Tokyo Olympics.
Arriving in Japan as the big favourite thanks to her four gold medals won five years earlier in Rio de Janeiro, Biles broke down in full view of a global audience, withdrawing from four of the five finals.
She explained that she was fighting against the “twisties”, a temporary mental block whereby gymnasts lose their sense of where they are in the air, with the risk of injury when they land.
‘I’m not 16 any more’
In Antwerp, however, she seems to be getting her career back on track.
It was in the same city that Biles won her first world gold 10 years ago during her first world championships, when she claimed four medals, including two golds.
“I think each and every time you are crowned world champion it feels a little bit different,” Biles told journalists in Belgium.
“I’m still surprised, I’m 26, I’m a little bit older so it feels just as good as the first one just because we broke records, we came together, we had fight. It’s different but it’s exciting.
“I’m not like 16 any more, I’m 26, like everything feels different.
“I’m thinking a little bit more about my gymnastics. It’s not so carefree.
“Staying at the top and just pushing day in, day out is a little bit harder because I’m older, my body is tired and everybody’s like ‘Gosh she looks great’ and I’m like, I feel I’m going to die sometimes and then I come out here and I rely on my training and get back to work.”
To achieve this latest title, the 1.42m gymnast didn’t even need to perform her incredible Yurchenko double pike which now bears her name.
On Wednesday, she settled for a Cheng, executed to perfection to launch the American campaign.
Despite a slight imbalance on the beam, her overall performance, highlighted by scoring 15.166 on the floor, was again strong, like on Sunday during the qualifications.
Biles, Shilese Jones, Leanne Wong and Skye Blakely resisted a comeback from the Brazilians, who won the first team medal in their history.
The other member of the American team, Joscelyn Roberson, was injured in the vault warm-up and did not compete.
Reigning all-around world champion Rebeca Andrade impressed for Brazil, delivering a classy performance on the floor, scoring 14.666.
The surprise came from France who snatched bronze largely thanks to Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos, Biles’ training partner in the United States.