Unless US women fall apart in world gymnastics finals (not likely), expect another title

ANTWERP, Belgium — Every winning streak eventually ends, and the U.S. women’s will at some point, too.

Probably not here, however.

Unless something completely shocking happens, the U.S. women will win a seventh consecutive team title at the world championships on Wednesday night. That would break their tie with the Chinese men, who won six in a row from 2003 to 2014.

This isn’t homerism. Or a slight against the other teams here.

It’s math.

The Americans finished qualifying more than five points ahead of Britain, last year’s silver medalists. In a sport where places are often decided by tenths and hundredths of a point, that’s a rout.

Yes, Simone Biles gives the Americans a significant advantage. The most-decorated gymnast ever at the world championships and a four-time Olympic champion, she boosts the U.S. score by two or more points. But the Americans won without her last year. They have depth and, more importantly, they have consistency.

The U.S. women had the top total on floor and vault in qualifying Sunday, and were second on both uneven bars and balance beams. They counted only three scores below 14 while every other team counted six or more.

And none of the U.S. scores was a reach. With the exception of Skye Blakely’s fall on balance beam, every routine, and the scores for them, was pretty much what the Americans were expected to do based on other competitions this year.

China, meanwhile, needed its best meet in the last five years to post the top scores on uneven bars and balance beam. Expecting them to do it again in team finals is asking a lot.

Skye Blakely and her U.S. teammates will go for their seventh consecutive world championship on Wednesday.
Skye Blakely and her U.S. teammates will go for their seventh consecutive world championship on Wednesday.

“Our team has done a fantastic job. Literally super good,” Ou Yushan said after China’s qualifying session Monday night. “From Tokyo to now, this is the first time our team has reached the top three.”

Even if Britain and China do exactly what they did in qualifying, and Brazil doesn’t have the issues they did on uneven bars, they’d need the U.S. women to open the door for them.

But this is a veteran team, accustomed to the pressure. Accustomed to the scoring format of the finals, too, where teams put three gymnasts up on each event and have to count all three scores.

The Americans are putting Shilese Jones, Joscelyn Roberson and Biles up on vault. Blakely, Biles and Jones will do uneven bars while Leanne Wong, Jones and Biles will do beam. The U.S. will close with Roberson, Jones and Biles on floor exercise.

While this is Roberson’s first world championships, it is Biles’ sixth. Blakely, Jones and Wong were part of the team that won the title last year, and Jones is the reigning silver medalist in the all-around.

“Just believing in myself,” Jones said of what she learned from last year’s world championships. “Knowing I can go up there and hit a routine just like I do in practice on the big stage when it comes time to hitting it.”

There aren’t many teams that could contend with that. The one best equipped to do it is Russia, and they’re not here. The reigning Olympic champions are banned because of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. They won’t have a team at next summer’s Paris Games, either.

The Americans also get the benefit of their order of events. Because they had the top score in qualifying, they’ll start on vault. It’s their best event and, just as the U.S. women did at the London Olympics in 2012, they could have an insurmountable lead when they’re done.

Biles’ coach, Laurent Landi, said after qualifying he didn’t know if Biles would do the Yurchenko double pike again. If she doesn’t, her “backup” vault is a Cheng, the second-hardest being done these days. Roberson also has a Cheng. Jones does a less-difficult Yurchenko double, but it’s so clean she still ends up with one of the higher scores on vault.

The U.S. women’s vault total was more than a point better in qualifying than Britain, which had the second-highest total. It was more than 1.5 points higher than Brazil’s and a whopping 4.5 points better than China.

Do that, or anything comparable, in the final, and the Americans would need a complete meltdown in the last three events for anyone to have a chance of catching them.

Anything is possible, of course. But it's not likely. Not this year.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on social media @nrarmour.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Simone Biles, US gymnasts have direct path to another world title