By Pritha Sarkar
GLASGOW (Reuters) – Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas showed that the United States will be the team to beat at next year’s Rio Olympics after they blew away the opposition to land a third straight team title at the world championships on Tuesday.
While the Americans exchanged high fives after triumphing by a commanding margin of 5.174 points, the Hydro Arena exploded into celebration as a spectacular final vault by Ellie Downie ended Britain’s century-long search for a world team medal.
It was a bronze behind China but for Britain’s famous six of Ruby Harrold, sisters Ellie and Becky Downie, Amy Tinkler, Kelly Simm, and Claudia Fragapane their medals could not have glistened brighter.
China snatched silver after Russia, who had occupied second position at the halfway point, slipped up over and over again on the balance beam to fall out of contention.
The Americans let the host nation lap up the accolades as they knew that, as far as they were concerned, it was mission accomplished in Glasgow.
“I saw the scoreboard at the end and I got the shivers,” Margaret Nichols, the only American to compete on all four apparatus, told reporters.
So majestic was their performance, they led by 0.899 of a point at the end of the first rotation, 2.458 points after the second and by the time they compiled a total of 135.530 points in the third, their lead was 4.599 points.
Only the most unexpected of meltdowns on the floor exercise would have denied them gold but with twice world all-around champion Biles leading the way with her sassy moves and electrifying tumbles, that was a remote possibility.
The final rotation turned into a lap of honour for the Americans as they completed their victory charge with a total of 181.338.
Biles, who on Thursday will be aiming 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 daring Amanar vault, 15.200 on the beam — a routine that included her spinning around 900 degrees on the four-inch block of wood as she balanced her entire body weight on her right toes — and 15.733 on the floor.
With Douglas, Nichols, Alexandra Raisman and Madison Kocian proving to be a dazzling support act to Biles’s jaw-dropping skills, the Americans had no problem in living up to their billing as favourites.
Russia’s hopes of challenging the front-runners ended when they flopped spectacularly on the balance beam — with all three gymnasts suffering crash landings either during or after their routines.
Russia’s misfortune allowed China to snatch silver with a total of 176.164.
Britain looked to be out of the running when they trailed in fifth place with just one rotation remaining.
It was left to Ellie Downie, who appeared to have ruined the host nation’s chances of a medal when she fell off the asymmetric bars in the first rotation, to take a leap of faith with the final vault of the day.
When she nailed the landing, her team mates started jumping around hoping the judges would reward her resilience and a score of 15.133 confirmed that the host nation had leapfrogged Russia and Japan in the standings.
“I came off and I was so emotional as it was all going so crazy. I don’t think anyone expected us to get a medal,” said the younger of the Downie siblings.
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Mark Meadows and Ken Ferris)