GLASGOW (Reuters) - There are still more than nine months to go before the start of the Rio Games but it seems no amount of blood, sweat and tears shed by their rivals in training will be enough to topple the U.S. women’s gymnastics team from the top of the Olympic podium.
Last beaten in 2010, the American women have since won three world titles and the 2012 Olympic gold.
Anyone in the chasing pack hoping to catch a glimpse of weakness in a team that features twice all-around world champion Simone Biles and Olympic gold medalists Gabby Douglas and Alexandra Raisman was left sorely disappointed on Tuesday.
While the Americans were the only competitors not to suffer a mishap on any of the four apparatus, their rivals slipped up.
China’s Wang Yan fell off the balance beam, Britain’s Ellie Downie ended up on her hands and knees after losing her grip from the asymmetric bars, while Russia’s three gymnasts suffered crash landings on the balance beam.
Amid the chaos and commotion at Glasgow’s Hydro Arena, the Americans were a picture of single-minded focus as they stuck one landing after another.
“The girls did their jobs. We went out there and had fun with it. It comes from all the practices we’ve done. We’re so prepared for this,” said Biles as she collected her seventh gold medal in her third world championships.
“We came into it mentally stronger. We were like, ‘OK, we’re actually really prepared for this, maybe even over-prepared, so let’s go and have some fun.’ I think that’s what we all did.”
Biles, who on Thursday will aim to become the first woman to win three successive world all-around titles, did not put a toe wrong during the competition.
She earned 15.966 for her soaring and gravity-defying Amanar vault, 15.200 on the beam — a routine that included her spinning around 900 degrees on her right toes — and 15.733 on the floor.
“Simone has so much energy, my God! We try to figure out what her secret is,” said Raisman. “We all look up to her. She’s amazing. I love to train with her because she always pushes me to the next level.”
With Douglas, Margaret Nichols, Raisman and Madison Kocian proving to be a dazzling support act to Biles, the Americans look unstoppable but are taking nothing for granted.
“We never assume we’ll be in first place,” said team coordinator Marta Karolyi, under whose guidance the Americans have won five of the last women’s team golds.
“We always say even when you are (in first place) you have to work even harder. Only through dedication and hard work you can get better. That’s our philosophy.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford