To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Simone Biles dominates a world championship not without surprises

Another gymnastics world championship has come and gone. This year, the host nation was Antwerp, Belgium, the same as Simone Biles’ debut world championships ten years ago. This year, Biles was the talk of the championships in her first international appearance since the Tokyo Olympics. She was as dominant as ever, taking four golds and one silver, but she was not the only story of the championships, as there were Olympic tickets and individual and team medals on the line.

On the women’s side, nine teams qualified for the Olympics next year, joining the United States, Great Britain and Canada, who qualified at last year’s worlds. Some old standbys, like China, Italy, the Netherlands and Japan made the cut, with some surprises like South Korea and Australia. Romania qualified after missing out on the past two Olympics, and Brazil and France qualified while having a fantastic World Championships. Individual athletes also punched their Olympic tickets, including fan-favorites Aleah Finnegan (PHI) and Kaylia Nemour (ALG).

In the team final, Biles led the US to a record seventh consecutive gold medal in the world team event. She was joined by Shilese Jones, the US’ breakout star of this quad, consistent all-arounder Leanne Wong, beam and bars specialist Skye Blakely and rising star Jocelyn Robertson. Unfortunately, Robertson suffered an injury during team final warmups and was unable to compete, later withdrawing from the vault final as well. The silver medal went to Brazil, led as always by their star Rebeca Andrade. This marked Brazil’s first ever world team medal in gymnastics. In bronze medal position was team France, who put together the performance of a lifetime, anchored by team leader Melanie de Jesus dos Santos, who exploded in tears when she saw the result. The medal was her first world’s medal, and team France’s first world medal since 1950.

On the men’s side, the young US team had a shockingly good world championship, taking bronze in the team final and ending a nine year medal drought. They were joined by China in silver and Japan in first. Japan has dominated men’s gymnastics for a long time, and this year was no exception. Like the women, nine teams qualified for world championships, including Ukraine, Canada and the US. The biggest shock was Brazil failing to snag an Olympic ticket. 

In the men’s all-around final, Fred Richard (USA) shocked the world and took the bronze, becoming the first US man to win an individual all-around medal since 2010 and the youngest American individual world medalist of all time at 19 years old. Illia Kovtun (UKR) fought hard and earned the silver, and Hashimoto Daiki (JPN) won the gold, defending his all-around title from 2022.

There was some drama in the women’s all-around final, as Jessica Gadirova (GBR) pulled out due to injury. Gadirova was a favorite to medal, and she was replaced by her teammate Alice Kinsella, who put together an impressive performance for seventh place. Unsurprisingly, the gold medal went to Biles, who won the competition by over a point. In silver medal position was Andrade, who is generally recognized as the second-best gymnast currently competing (after Biles) and Jones took the bronze, which will certainly help her case for the US Olympic team selection. This podium was also notable for being the first all-Black world’s podium in women’s artistic gymnastics.

The biggest shock of the apparatus finals was Biles winning silver, not gold, on vault. She fell on her Yurchenko double pike, now known as the Biles II. The Biles II is the hardest vault being competed in women’s gymnastics now, and Biles generally tries to over-rotate it for her safety. This time, she over-rotated and sat it down. Despite the fall, Biles still came in second to Andrade’s first, and still looked thrilled. Vault finals mainstay Seojeong Yeo (KOR) took the bronze. On bars, Jones took another bronze, while Nemour (who competes the hardest bars routine in the world) got silver and Qiyuan Qiu (CHN) got the gold, continuing China’s streak of disappointing team finals performances followed up by apparatus final victories.

Biles took gold on beam and floor. Andrade was also on both of these podiums, in bronze medal position on the beam and silver on the floor. Yaqin Zhou added to China’s medal tally with a silver on beam and fan favorite Flavia Saraiva (BRA) finally got her individual world’s medal with floor bronze.

For the men, Khoi Young (USA) added to the American men’s breakout worlds with silver on vault and pommel horse. Reigning Olympic champion Artem Dolgopyay (ISR) took gold on floor. Hashimoto got another gold on the horizontal bars and Rhys McClenaghan (IRL) defended his world title on the pommel horse. 

Overall, this year’s worlds was competitive and full of surprises, from teams on the periphery breaking onto the podium to some surprising gold medals. Biles dominated as everyone expected her to, but the field is far closer than it has been in a long time.

This year’s worlds could be seen as a preview for next year’s Olympic Games, but as all gymnastics fans know, anything could change. It’s almost certain that the US women’s team will look different next year (although Biles and Jones look like veritable locks right now). Men’s gymnastics is reshuffling its status quo, although Japan is still retaining its dominance for now. Now that the stage is set for the teams and individuals who have qualified for the Olympics, all fans can do is wait.

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