Published 9:03 PM EDT Oct 12, 2018
Simone Biles is going to the world gymnastics championships!
Biles making the U.S. team for worlds, which begin later this month in Doha, Qatar, was never in question once she returned to the gym. She’s the reigning Olympic all-around champion and the first woman to win three consecutive world titles. She competes skills in competition no other women dare try, even with a pit full of foam to break their fall.
(If you haven’t seen the vault she debuted at the world team selection camp meet Thursday, go find it.)
No, the question was who would be going with Biles as the U.S. women try to lock up their spot at the Tokyo Olympics.
On Friday afternoon, USA Gymnastics announced that reigning world champion Morgan Hurd, Kara Eaker, Grace McCallum, Riley McCusker and Ragan Smith would round out the world team squad. One of the six will be named as an alternate before competition begins Oct. 26.
The top three teams at worlds qualify for the 2020 Summer Games. The U.S. women have won the team title at every Olympics and world championships since 2011, and have not finished off the podium since 1999.
“We considered both rank order from yesterday's competition and who helps the team on each event with the best chance at the highest team score,” national team coordinator Tom Forster said in a Twitter chat after the team was announced.
Four women compete on each apparatus in qualifying, with the lowest score dropped. In team finals, only three women compete on each event and all three scores count.
That wasn't USA Gymnastics' only news Friday. Later in the afternoon, it announced that former U.S. Rep. Mary Bono, R-Calif., will serve as interim CEO until a permanent replacement for Kerry Perry is found. Perry resigned last month under pressure from the U.S. Olympic Committee.
More: USA Gymnastics names Mary Bono interim president and CEO
Back to the world team ...
Hurd was no surprise, given her title last year and runner-up finish to Biles at the U.S. championships. Neither was McCusker, who was second to Biles at Thursday’s meet. She’s also the best the United States has on uneven bars and can put up big scores on floor and balance beam. McCallum was third at the selection camp meet and will help on floor exercise, while Eaker provides a monster score on balance beam.
The question mark was Smith.
She is incredibly talented, the U.S. champion in 2017 and an alternate to the Rio Olympics. But she was limited by injuries at nationals, where she finished 10th in the all-around, and was fifth at the selection camp meet after a fall on uneven bars and going out of bounds on floor.
But when Smith is on, she can contend for an all-around medal. It appears as if the selection committee decided to give her every chance to do that rather than taking another gymnast who might only contribute on one event.
“Ragan is getting better by the day,” Forster said in the Twitter chat. “The improvement she showed between September and this weekend shows she is on the rise, and we are very happy for her.”
This will be Biles’ first world championships since 2015. She took a year off after winning five medals at the Rio Olympics, four of them gold, and returned to the gym last November.
Though gymnastics is not a sport someone can just pick up where they left off, Biles has already surpassed where she was in 2016. She’s added a new vault, and upgraded both floor and uneven bars – so much so she’ll likely make the event final on her “worst” event.
And a win in the all-around would make her the first woman to win four world titles. Only Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, who has six, would have more.
“She’s awesome!” Forster said in the Twitter chat.
Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour