The legendary Simone Biles of the United States has made history so many times in her career over the past five years it’s almost impossible to keep track, but tonight she has the opportunity to make it happen yet again when she fights for her fourth world championships all-around title in Doha.
Biles is currently tied with Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina for the most world all-around golds, with both gymnasts earning a total of three in their careers. If Biles wins her fourth tonight, she will take over as the most decorated world championships all-arounder in history after also winning the title in 2013, 2014, and 2015.
I have zero doubt in my mind that Biles will win. Her four-point lead in qualifications is the same margin that separated the gymnasts ranked second all the way through 24th, and she could afford multiple falls without fearing a podium miss. It’s going to be an easy, decisive win for her barring injury or a kidney stone explosion, and if watching a legend make history by decimating her competition bores you, then I don’t know what to tell you. Find a new sport to follow, because with Biles around, you’re going to spend the next three years of your life whining all the time.
The rest of the podium could be almost exciting as the team final looked going into the final rotation. Reigning world champion Morgan Hurd set herself up as the frontrunner for silver with her fantastic performance in prelims, where her 56.465 puts her a solid eight tenths ahead of the rest of the field, a good enough lead to ensure her the medal if all goes according to plan, but also a bit scary knowing that one fall could mean a much tougher battle.
I have faith in Hurd’s ability to pull it off. Both she and Biles made mistakes in the team competition that will only drive them to finish even stronger here, and Hurd always knows how to do exactly what she’s trained for every single time it counts. In 2017, she went from missing the podium at nationals to becoming world champion in under two months, and this year, a fifth-place finish at the training camp had everyone once again doubting her, but she was on her game in qualifications, as if she’d ever do it any other way.
Behind Hurd is a gymnast who will bring the fire in her performance today after missing the podium by the tiniest margin last year. Mai Murakami of Japan has been phenomenal so far here in Doha, and with her brilliant levels of consistency, execution, and difficulty, I see her as the biggest podium threat today outside of the Americans. It wasn’t surprising at all to see her finish third last weekend, and I hope the beam nerves that cost her the gold in Montreal stay far, far away this time around.
The biggest surprise in qualifications was Nina Derwael‘s fourth-place finish in the all-around. Known as a bars specialist, Derwael surprised with one of the best performances for all-arounders at Euros this summer, where she also picked up an equally surprising beam medal, and her qualification meet here was equally fantastic. She was operating close to the top of her potential this weekend, and despite going up in the always-hated first subdivision, her scores held up for the next ten sessions that followed, putting her just a tenth behind Murakami going into the all-around final.
I’d say the rest of the top seven from qualifications – Angelina Melnikova of Russia, reigning world silver medalist Ellie Black of Canada, and Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France – are also solid podium threats, and though she hasn’t had the best couple of days here so far, Chen Yile of China, who finished 13th in prelims, has a lot of potential to be at the top if she hits beam and fixes some mistakes on bars and floor. I think a medal might be too much pressure for her right now, and I don’t see it happening, but she can definitely improve to a top eight position, and perhaps even top five, if she just simply hits her routines.
Melnikova, Black, and De Jesus Dos Santos also all have areas of improvement from qualifications to the final that could make them more competitive today, so I’m excited to see them make this final incredibly interesting. Even if gold is all but decided, the silver and bronze are wide open, and hopefully we’ll see it come down to the wire for who can win it.
Also in the final with strong potential is the delightful Luo Huan of China, who has truly been a gem here and I hope she can hit again to continue to prove herself as someone the program needs to stop ignoring. Flavia Saraiva of Brazil with a hit beam routine could be up there, but her bars might be too weak in a field this deep. And Asuka Teramoto of Japan will be looking for much stronger work on vault and floor today, which could get her a top-eight finish.
Beyond this group, the competitors include Ellie Downie of Great Britain, who isn’t at full strength yet but was pleased to hit all four routines in prelims after an “absolutely horrifying” training the day prior; her teammate Kelly Simm, who continues to do a phenomenal job as one of the key leaders and contributors of the British team; Irina Alexeeva of Russia, who has been such an incredible light on the team this year; Naomi Visser of the Netherlands, who had a fantastic day in prelims and will add so much depth as a young face on a mostly-veteran Dutch team; Elisabeth Seitz of Germany, whose rockstar bars always make her a strong contender even if her other events lack difficulty; Denisa Golgota of Romania, the first-year senior who will be part of her country’s rebuilding process over the next few years; Jade Barbosa of Brazil, who helped her team to their first final since she made her senior debut in 2007; Brooklyn Moors of Canada, who has been rock solid here so far and is sure to stun on floor; Lara Mori of Italy, who unfortunately missed the floor final but has been such a strength on the Italian team in what has been an off-year for them; Zsofia Kovacs of Hungary, who is back from injury and rebuilding her program to remain a solid international contender; Lorette Charpy of France, who was beautiful on beam in the team final to help France their best team performance since 1997; Ana Perez of Spain, the 2016 Olympian who continues to lead her country with top-notch routines on every event; and Axelle Klinckaert of Belgium, who snuck into the final by less than half a tenth over the first reserve in her first major international championships after missing both Rio and Montreal due to injuries.
The competition begins at 4 pm in Doha, which is 9 am ET. The meet will be streamed on the FIG YouTube channel in addition to airing on the Olympic Channel and on Alkass.
Article by Lauren Hopkins