DOHA: Superstar Simone Biles of the USA makes winning look easy, but she isn’t taking another gold for granted when she takes to the podium in the women’s All-around final at Aspire Dome on Thursday.
After trouncing the field in the qualifications, Biles is favoured to become the first female artistic gymnast to win four world All-around titles.
Svetlana Khorkina (RUS) took gold in 1997, 2001 and 2003 while Japan’s Kohei Uchimura has won six men’s titles.
The prospect of competing on the global stage for the first time in two years is a daunting task even for a gymnast as highly decorated and seasoned as Biles. Following her quadruple gold medal-winning performance at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, she took a break from training.
The Doha Worlds is her first international competition since Rio.
“It’s a little bit scary seeing all the girls train so hard as long as they have, and then I’m coming back in less than a year of training, trying to keep up with them,” said Biles, who led qualifications over defending champion team-mate Morgan Hurd by a commanding margin of 4.50 points. “But I think I’ve done a pretty good job, so I’m proud of myself.”
Judging by her performance in qualifications, Biles has nothing to fear. She is also ranked first on vault, balance beam and floor exercise, and second on uneven bars, heading into the apparatus finals last week.
Biles expressed the wonder of competing anew after she piloted the USA to their fourth consecutive team title in an 8.766-point rout in Tuesday’s WAG Team final.
“It felt unreal,” said Biles after the final, where she again registered the highest all-around total. “I can’t believe it’s World Championships and we’re competing again.”
Although the 17-year-old Hurd referred to Biles as “the greatest of all time,” she does not see herself in Biles’ shadow in Doha.
“My goal is just to do the absolute best I can do,” she said. “We all want to catch (Biles) so we’re just trying our absolute best.”
With a title to regain and history to make, Biles views the final as a spirited contest rather than a proving ground.
“I’m really excited to be out there,” said Biles. “It’s going to be a really fun atmosphere with Morgan and all the other girls.”
Other leading medal challengers include Japan’s Mai Murakami, who placed fourth in 2017 and qualified third for the Doha final; Belgium’s Nina Derwael (fourth); the Russian Federation’s Angelina Melnikova (fifth) and defending silver medalist Elsabeth (Ellie) Black, who was sixth in the qualifications.