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U.S. women dominate world gymnastic championships

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

World records are falling all over the place at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp. The greatest gymnast of all time, she's done it again. Simone Biles won the individual all-around title today. Earlier in the competition, the U.S. team won a record-breaking seventh world title. But there are other firsts too, and notable athletes on the rise to keep an eye on as we head into the Summer Olympics in Paris next year. Joining us to talk about all of that is Patricia Duffy. She's editor-in-chief of Gymnastics Now, and she is in Belgium tracking all of those gravity-defying routines. Welcome.

PATRICIA DUFFY: Hey, guys. Thanks for having me.

SUMMERS: So Patricia, let's start with the women's all-around, which just wrapped up. Give us a couple quick highlights.

DUFFY: Well, from the get-go, it was exciting. Jessica Gadirova, Great Britain's standout who could contend for the podium, actually pulled out last minute. And so it was Simone Biles, Rebeca Andrade and Shilese Jones who hit all of their events across the board to ascend to the podium, becoming the first all-Black podium in world history, men's or women's.

SUMMERS: Wow.

DUFFY: Simone didn't have her, like, best night, but she has such a great difficulty buffer it didn't really matter. She actually missed connections on bars and beam and then tripped in her floor routine right before her last pass. And she kind of had a little laugh about it. That's just kind of Simone's personality. And she finished it and became world champion for the sixth time and is undefeated in world all-around competition since beginning to compete at these competitions in 2013.

SUMMERS: OK, so those are the women. What about the men's - what about the U.S. men's team? How are they doing?

DUFFY: They're actually doing incredible. So there's kind of been a drought for the U.S. men, I would say, for about the past decade. But they came out on the team final a couple of days ago and won bronze behind Japan and China - two powerhouses that they have been trying to get to the level of as far as difficulty goes. They've always kind of been there execution-wise, but difficulty is huge in elite gymnastics. So they won the first world medal in team competition since 2014, winning the bronze. And they are now primed to fight for that podium in the bronze medal position next summer in Paris, pending, of course, another powerhouse, Russia, potentially returning.

SUMMERS: These championships are kind of a preview of what we may see at the Paris Olympics next year. And, I mean, we obviously know about Simone Biles and have talked about her, but who else do you think is positioned to really shine?

DUFFY: The field for the U.S. women's specifically is probably going to be the deepest it's ever been. You have Biles, but then you have reigning Olympic all-around champion, Sunisa Lee. You have Gabby Douglas coming back, who's the 2012 Olympic all-around champion, Shilese Jones, who won bronze tonight, current world team members and then Jade Carey, who won gold on floor, and Jordan Chiles, who won silver with the team in Tokyo. And then I also forgot to mention the male medal potential in Paris, which is Fred Richard. He won a - the world bronze medal in the all-around just yesterday, becoming the first man since 2010 to ascend to that podium. And he's the first POC U.S. men's all-around medalist.

SUMMERS: All right, Patricia, I'm going to ask you to give us some quick homework. The championships continue this weekend. Give us one or two things quickly that we should all be watching for.

DUFFY: Well, Biles will bring back her Yurchenko double pike during the vault final tomorrow. She didn't do it tonight. It's kind of just a safety thing, probably, but she'll do that - and another very difficult vault and is the favorite on that event. She's also the favorite on beam and floor. But then her teammate, who was also on the podium with her tonight, Shilese Jones, is a favorite in the bars final. And then for the men, it's really fun to watch pommel horse, which is going to see a few Olympic and world champions battling it out for that gold, and high bar, which closes things out on Sunday, will have you on the edge of your seat. It's just insane.

SUMMERS: All right. I know how I'm going to be spending my weekend. That is Patricia Duffy in Belgium. She is founder and editor-in-chief of Gymnastics Now. Patricia, thank you so much for being here.

DUFFY: Thank you, guys. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kat Lonsdorf
Sarah Handel
Juana Summers
Juana Summers is a co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, alongside Ailsa Chang, Ari Shapiro and Mary Louise Kelly. She joined All Things Considered in June 2022.