US favourites for Rio after superb show

GLASGOW • There are still more than nine months to go before the Rio Games begin but it seems no amount of blood, sweat and tears shed by rivals in training will be enough to topple the United States women's gymnastics team from the top of the Olympic podium.

Last beaten in 2010, the American women on Tuesday won their third straight world team title.

Those in the chasing pack hoping to catch a glimpse of weakness in a team that featured two-time all-around world champion Simone Biles and Olympic gold medallists Gabby Douglas and Alexandra Raisman were left sorely disappointed.

An error-free performance on the four disciplines - vault, uneven bars, beam and floor - gave the US an accumulated 181.338 points to finish over five points ahead of their nearest rivals.

The Chinese moved up from fourth after qualifying to take silver (176.164), with hosts Britain scoring 172.380 to take their first-ever team medal with bronze.


Simone Biles on the beam during the team final. Her excellent scores in the vault and floor also helped the US beat China by a huge margin of more than five points. -PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

While the Americans were a picture of focus as they stuck one landing after another at Glasgow's Hydro Arena, their rivals slipped up.

China's Wang Yan fell off the balance beam.

Britain's Ellie Downie ended up on her hands and knees after losing her grip on the asymmetric bars.

Russia's three gymnasts were not spared either, suffering crash landings on the balance beam.

Said Biles: "The girls did their jobs. We went out there and had fun with it. We're so prepared for this."

The 18-year-old, who today will aim to become the first woman to win three successive world all-around titles, did not put a toe wrong during the competition.

She earned 15.966 for her soaring and gravity-defying Amanar vault, 15.200 on the beam - a routine that included her spinning around 900 degrees on her right toes - and 15.733 on the floor.

"We all look up to her. She's amazing," said Raisman. "I love to train with her because she always pushes me to the next level."

With Douglas, Margaret Nichols, Raisman and Madison Kocian proving to be a dazzling support act to Biles, the Americans look unstoppable. However, they are taking nothing for granted.

"We never assume we'll be in first place," said team coordinator Marta Karolyi, under whose guidance the Americans have won five of the last seven women's team golds.

"We always say, 'Even when you are (in first place), you have to work even harder'."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 29, 2015, with the headline 'US favourites for Rio after superb show'. Print Edition | Subscribe