United States gymnast Simone Biles has claimed her 20th world title as she continued her return from a two-year break to lead the US to a seventh straight women’s team gold at the world gymnastics championships in Antwerp, Belgium.
The US women earned their record seventh consecutive team title on Wednesday and 26-year-old Biles won her 33rd major championship medal – across the worlds and Olympics – to make her the most decorated female gymnast ever.
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And it was fitting that it took place in Antwerp, the port city where Biles came to international prominence 10 years ago by winning her first world title in 2013.
“It wasn’t Team USA’s best day,” Biles told reporters.
“It’s crazy, we still pulled it out. So I’m really, really proud of the team,” she said.
The US team of Biles, Shilese Jones, Skye Blakely, Joscelyn Roberson and Leanne Wong combined for a total of 167.729 points to take gold ahead of Brazil (165.530) and France winning bronze (164.064).
“She’s the leader, having someone so inspiring and so encouraging … Team USA came together and we did what we needed to do tonight,” said Biles’ teammate Jones.
Biles has made an impressive comeback since the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Arriving in Japan as the big favourite thanks to her four gold medals won five years earlier in Rio de Janeiro, Biles broke down in full view of a global audience, withdrawing from four of the five finals.
She explained that she was fighting against the “twisties”, a temporary mental block whereby gymnasts lose their sense of where they are in the air, with the risk of injury when they land.
In Antwerp, however, she seems to be getting her career back on track.
The US women have won gold in the team event at every world championship that included a team competition since 2011. Their latest victory broke a tie with the Chinese men for the longest streak of consecutive team titles.
Biles’ 33 combined medals at the sport’s two biggest events are one more than what Larisa Latynina of the Soviet Union achieved. And she could extend that tally as she is still in the running for five other podiums in Antwerp.
Russia was banned from the Antwerp event because of sanctions imposed by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) as a result of the war against Ukraine.
In the absence of their Russian rivals – the defending Olympic champions – the US team were the overwhelming favourites.
Source: News Agencies