Celebrations all-round as Biles claims her third gold
American makes history by completing a hat-trick of world title wins after a thrilling Hydro final
IF THE 6,500-strong crowd packed into the sold-out SSE Hydro were looking for a nail-biting thriller, then the showdown between USA’s Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas most certainly didn’t disappoint.
Biles claimed gold at the World Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow to make history by becoming the first woman to win three individual all-around titles in succession.
There were, however, signs that the USA’s golden girl was perhaps feeling the pressure when she had a heartstopping fall forward on to the beam that prompted a gasp of shock around the arena.
Nor was her compatriot, the reigning Olympic champion Douglas, going to go down without a fight. This is a young woman known for her dogged tenacity and Douglas is never better than when the odds are stacked against her.
In the end, though, she had to settle for silver with Biles soaring into the sporting history books.
Their fierce duel was mesmerising to watch, teeing up an edge-of-the-seat climax on the floor. Going into the final rotation, Biles led by 0.400 of a mark. In gymnastics, that slim margin can be easily swallowed up.
When Biles, the adrenalin clearly coursing through her veins, took a giant step out of bounds on one of her tumbling passes there was much frantic grappling with mental arithmetic among the assembled masses.
But with a far higher start value than Douglas, the judges were able to forgive Biles her error.
Five-time European champion Larisa Iordache took bronze, a medal that will go some way to salving bruised pride after the apocalyptic implosion of the Romanian team during qualification last Friday.
The great Nadia Comaneci, the first woman to score a perfect 10.00 with her routine at the 1976 Olympic Games, has reportedly been in the gym coaching her countrywomen in a bid to raise morale.
Gold is a colour that clearly suits Biles. The pint-sized powerhouse already had seven world medals of that shade to her name, including one from the stellar women’s team victory by USA earlier this week.
Put simply, even on a bad day at the office Biles can do things no other gymnast can.
Too young to be part of the USA women’s team that took gold at London 2012, she burst on to the international scene a year later and has remained top of the global gymnastics pecking order ever since. Her career total of 11 world medals breaks the US record, surpassing compatriot Alicia Sacramone.
Nor have we seen the last of Biles at these World Championships. She will be back in the apparatus finals at the weekend with vault tomorrow followed by beam and floor on Sunday.
Great Britain’s Ruby Harrold and Amy Tinkler finished in 22nd and 23rd places respectively but leave Glasgow with a historic team bronze and a coveted qualification spot for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
Today will see Japan’s “superman” Kohei Uchimura, the five-time world and reigning Olympic all-around gold medallist, begin his bid for a record sixth consecutive title.
Uchimura took his first world team gold on Wednesday, realising a muchlonged for ambition. It was also a victory that Japan had waited 37 years for .
In action for Great Britain will be Scot Daniel Purvis and Max Whitlock, who took silver in the men’s all-around in Nanning last year.
European all-around and world parallel bars champion Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine was the closest challenger to Uchimura in qualification posting 90.131, only 0.433 behind.
Purvis finished third overall in qualifying with Whitlock, after a fall on high bar, down in ninth. Whitlock, however, was the only Briton to compete on all six pieces of apparatus during the team final.
Both Great Britain men will undoubtedly feel buoyed by that history-making team silver in front of an adoring home crowd on Wednesday.
Other names likely to be in contention are USA’s Danell Leyva and Chinese duo Shudi Deng and Ruoteng Xiao.
RECORD BREAKER: Simone Biles pretends to take a bite out of her gold medal after victory last night at the SSE Hydro.