A sell-out crowd of over 6,500 gathered at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro to witness history in the making as the USA’s Simone Biles became the first woman to win three consecutive World Gymnastics Championship All-Around titles. Of the world’s top 24 female gymnasts to arrive at the SSE Hydro with dreams of All-Around gold, only a few held realistic expectations of glory.
Pursued by her compatriot, Gaby Douglas, Biles set about demonstrating her class early, producing the night’s standout performance on her first apparatus. Facing the Vault, her Amanar produced an evening-high score of 15.8333 to establish her charge towards the title. Beam, typically, produced a far sterner test and, at one stage, saw Biles clutch the apparatus in a desperate effort to stay on. A score of 14.4 was a long way shy of the 14.966 she’d produced in qualification and could have left the door open for Douglas, the 2012 London Olympic All-Around champion, to capitalise. However, although far less theatrical in her errors, a series of tilts and quivers prevented Douglas from doing better than a 14.4 of her own. It was the only opportunity she would see to redress the margin on the evening, and that which has been set between the two since Biles adopted the mantle of world’s best two years ago.
Douglas completed her rotation with a solid routine on Floor, but, as the podium cleared and all other routines drew to a close, the stage was set. A gold medal-winning performance from Biles was the moment the crowd had come to see. And she didn’t disappoint. Although, by this point, there was little doubt about where the gold was destined, Biles delivered a champion’s display. She twisted and tumbled her way to a score of 15.2 and a comfortable winning margin of 1.083. It wasn’t quite the dominance she had shown in qualifying, but the record books will show a third consecutive World All-Around title nevertheless.
“I’m just really proud of myself and all the work I put in,” said Biles, after collecting her second Glasgow gold, following USA’s Team Final success two days previously. “I know it wasn’t my best meet but I’m still proud of the outcome. “I’m still in shock. I feel very weird and I guess it’s maybe how Kohei (Uchimura, winner of five consecutive men’s World All-Around titles) feels. I feel really proud of myself. We put a lot of hard work and dedication into what we do, and if you’re always having fun and loving what you do, I think that’s when you get the best results.” On the chances to building on her medal haul, she added: “I still have three finals to go, and we’ll see what happens.”
Credit must also be given to a resurgent Larisa Iordache. Shrugging off the disappointment of failing to make the women’s Team Final with Romania, the fans’ favourite was resolute throughout a determined display and captured the bronze. Prior to this evening’s all-important finale, which was the only remaining chance Iordache would have to medal in Glasgow, she was paid a welcome visit by the great Nadia Comaneci.
For home hopes Ruby Harrold and Amy Tinkler, who each played a telling contribution in Great Britain’s Team bronze medal success two days ago, it was a challenging occasion but one that will surely prove to be invaluable as a learning experience. Each was below her best but remained philosophical in assessing the final. Harrold said: “To be honest I'm a bit disappointed. A lot of effort went into the qualification and Team Final and, after walking away with the bronze, we were on massive high and it was a challenge to come down and get the mind ready to compete.
“We had to enjoy it out there today. It wasn’t the result we were after but we enjoyed it. The home crowd were amazing for every routine – brilliant. Hopefully I can rest and get my head together for Bars final which I’m really looking forward to now.”