Simone Biles maintained her strong lead at the top of the women’s all‑around standings on Monday afternoon, the second day of qualifications at the world championships in Antwerp. The American’s display came the day after her incredible comeback performance on Sunday following a two-year layoff from international competition.
In some ways, though, Jessica Gadirova’s placement in the top three was even more striking. The Briton remained in third place after the main contenders had competed, her score of 56.766 points edging out Rebeca Andrade, the defending all‑around champion, by just over one‑tenth. It is a reflection of the significant improvements that Gadirova, a surprise bronze medallist last year, has made, solidifying her status as one of the best of the rest directly behind Biles.
Despite committing an error on the uneven bars, Andrade dominated the all-around final in Liverpool last year, winning by more than 1.5 points. But the level from the top four gymnasts here is incredibly high and margins are minuscule. Although Andrade remains the competitor most likely to put pressure on Biles in the final on Friday, a similar error on the uneven bars on Monday meant the Brazilian had to settle for qualifying in fourth place behind Biles, Shilese Jones and Gadirova.
Gadirova’s improvements are visible across her gymnastics. She has sharpened her consistency and execution on her weaker events, particularly on the uneven bars, previously her most volatile and inconsistent event. “We just went back to basics for the little things. I’ve been really, really focusing on the execution from last year,” she said.
Her strengths, meanwhile, have become even more potent. After performing a common double twisting Yurchenko vault throughout her career, Gadirova’s mastery of the Cheng vault has elevated her to another level. Andrade also performs the Cheng, which has been Biles’s primary vault for much of her career.
“We’ve been working on [the Cheng] a while but after worlds last year, we’ve been really trying to work it and get the difficulty and I’m glad it’s paying off,” Gadirova said.
She has paired Cheng with another of the most difficult skills in the sport, the double twisting double straight somersault on floor, also called the Moors. Gadirova had previously performed the same tumbling pass in tucked position but doing so in straight position requires a level of power, technique and height that only a few are capable of.
With her combined power, consistency and smart routine construction, Gadirova is now undoubtedly the best all-around gymnast Great Britain has produced. She will head into the all-around final battling, exactly where she should be. “I just have to remind myself to trust my training and say I can do it,” she said.
The first final will see Great Britain compete for a medal in the men’s team competition. The British team, bronze medalists last year, qualified in third place and they will face a tough battle with Japan, USA and China for the medals.