Two years after she was forced to withdraw from the Olympic team final and spent the remainder of the night on the sidelines, this time Simone Biles was there right until the end.
Charged with closing out another gold medal before a raucous crowd on her floor routine, Biles refused to blink. She marched through a searing routine, drawing a standing ovation as the United States clinched a sixth consecutive team gold medal at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships with a score of 167.729.
The night, though, was also defined by a pair of historic performances behind the gymnastics superstars. Brazil finally made good on their generational talents, Rebeca Andrade and Flávia Saraiva, by scoring 165.530 and clinching a historic team silver medal.
Likewise, Mélanie de Jesus dos Santos, who recently moved from Paris to Biles’s gym in Texas to fulfil her potential, led France to their first ever world championships bronze medal by scoring 164.064. As new nations stepped up, Great Britain were left behind during a tough night in Antwerp as they finished in sixth place.
Despite their victory, the United States started off with a slice of bad luck. During their warm-up on the first apparatus, Joscelyn Roberson landed awkwardly while attempting her incredibly difficult Cheng vault, hurting her left foot and forcing her out of the competition. The strength in depth in the US team is so great that it made little difference.
Not long afterwards, Jessica Gadirova fell on her own Cheng. Falls for Great Britain followed on the uneven bars and balance beam as the prospect of a third consecutive medal became increasingly remote.
While Great Britain struggled, Brazil, France, China and Italy battled for the medals until the end. As Italy blinked first with a fall on the uneven bars, Brazil finished incredibly well, with Andrade clinching silver with an incredible fine floor routine and Cheng vault. De Jesus dos Santos, meanwhile, showed nerves of steel to snatch bronze with a brilliant uneven bars routine.
The night ended as so many of these occasions have over the past decade, with Biles demolishing the floor, earning the highest score of the competition and departing the podium as the crowd rose to their feet.
As she begins a potentially historic series of finals, Biles’ now holds 33 medals at the Olympic games and World Championships, equaling Vitaly Scherbo as the all-time record holder. No woman has won more world team medals than Biles, now a five-time world team champion.