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Simone Biles Owens, age 26, is married, wiser, and mentally tougher than she was at 2020 Tokyo Olympics. This undisputed queen of gymnastics consistently demonstrates her ability to lead Team USA to triumph.
At the 2023 World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, Biles-Owens, along with Shilese Jones, Skye Blakely, Joscelyn Roberson, and Leanna Wong, and team alternate Kayla DiCello earned the gold medal in the team finals.
They entered the competition as the heavy favorites to win gold. They delivered, making this the US’s 7th consecutive world championship Gold medal, making history for the most consecutive medals earned by any team.
Worlds was off to a shaky start when Joscelyn Roberson, Simone Biles’ teammate at World Champions Gymnastics, landed short while warming up on Vault. Her injury was so severe that she was pulled from competing.
Bittersweet Moment in USA Gymnastics History
Fortunately, Leanna Wong stepped in on Floor Exercise and Vault as Roberson’s replacement. Notably, it would be the first time in history that an entire USA Gymnastics’ World Team was fully made of women of color competitors at an event team finals.
Simone Biles and Team USA Take Charge on Vault
During the first rotation, Leanne Wong, again replacing Joscelyn Roberson, put up an impressive 14.066 on Vault. Shortly after, Shilese Jones scored a 14.100 – Simone closed out Vault with a 14.800. They were in 2nd place after the first event with a collective team score of 42.966.
Though somewhat shaken by the eleventh-hour alterations, Wong experienced a minor mishap on the Balance Beam, a fall that cost the team one point. She also showed a bit of unsteadiness during the Floor Exercise. Nonetheless, her mental fortitude played a crucial role in steering the American team toward victory.
Frazzled but Focused on the Prize
“We were all a little frazzled for a second,” after watching the teammate go down. Wong says she relied on her training to help her through the last-minute changes, earning her a team gold medal.
“I’ve done this Vault 100 times. So, I just need to remember what I do in practice and do the same thing,” Wong said.
Both Jones and Biles, possibly rattled by seeing Wong fall off the Balance Beam, bobbled slightly shortly after mounting. By the end of their Balance Beam routine, they pulled it together – Jones with a slight step on her landing, and Biles, nearly a stuck landing. Their collective Balance Beam team score was 39.600.
Skye Blakely, Biles and Jones sailed through their Uneven Bars routines seamlessly, putting up an impressive 43.265.
“After the turnaround on Vault, everybody handled it very well,” Blakely said. During an interview, Blakely described giving herself a little pep talk after watching her teammate’s injury. “My warm-up was good. I went and hit my Bars, so I was happy about that and excited,” she added.
Simone Bile Closes with the Highest Score of the Night
Leanne Wong held it together on Floor Exercise despite being pulled in last minute due to Joscelyn Roberson’s injury. Wong contributed a 13.166. Jones leaped and bounded gracefully, adding a 13.566. Simone Biles, a powerhouse tumbler, gave the performance of her life, seemingly smiling after every stuck landing. She closed out Team USA’s bid to make history with an impressive 15.155, the highest score earned during the entire competition.
Team Final Scores and More History Made in the Sport
The United States earned a total score of 167.729, earning the team gold for the seventh consecutive time at a World Gymnastics Championship. Team Brazil earned their first World Championship medal, a 2nd place finish with a total score of 165.530. France made its comeback back to the podium. It would be France’s first time earning a team medal at a World Championship since 1950.
Simone Biles of the United States, Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, and Melanie De Jesus Dos Santos of France, all women of African descent, led their teams to the podium – underscoring the power of access. It’s a win for the sport of Gymnastics.
All three athletes head to the team All-Around finals and event finals, where more history will be made.