Simone Biles out front in all-around
ANTWERP, Belgium -- The United States is still dominating all-around qualifying at the world gymnastics championships, even without its defending champion or Olympic gold medalist.
In the absence of Jordyn Wieber and Gabby Douglas, a couple of 16-year-olds are setting up the U.S. team for a spectacular final weekend at the Antwerp Sports Palace.
U.S. champion Simone Biles used superb floor and vault exercises to sweep past teammate Kyla Ross Wednesday and clinch a 1-2 finish ahead of Friday's all-around final.
These days, Wieber is a student at UCLA and Douglas has not been in intensive training since the London Olympics.
Biles was the only gymnast to break the 60-point mark with 60.133, leaving overnight leader Ross well behind with 59.198 in second place overall. Yao Jinnan of China was third with 57.965.
"She did an excellent job. She handled her temper and was aggressive," U.S. coach Martha Karolyi said of Biles. "She even can do a better job."
In first place for the all-around, Biles also qualified for all four apparatus finals -- floor, balance beam, uneven bars and vault -- the first woman U.S. gymnast to do so since Shannon Miller in 1991.
Even though the top 24 go through and all start from scratch in the all-around, the wobbly performance of 2010 champion and title favorite Aliya Mustafina drew much attention as the Russian finished nearly three points behind Biles with 57.165.
The women's all-around final is Friday, one day after Japan's Kohei Uchimura is seeking to become the first men's four-time all-around world champion in the sport.
In a U.S. faceoff of teenagers competing in their first world championship, Biles finished ahead of Ross. But they proved the strength and depth of the U.S. team in the new Olympic cycle ahead of the 2016 Rio Games.
Biles said no one could intimidate her at the Antwerp Sports Palace because "Martha scares me more than the judges."
Mustafina wobbled her way through the opening balance beam exercise and followed it with a fall on the opening series of tumbles of the floor exercise in another listless performance.
She landed on her backside on her second vault, slapping her hand into the mat in frustration. She was through to the final so it left only her confidence bruised after Wednesday's performance.
McKayla Maroney of the U.S. stood in provisional sixth place, but won't make Friday's final behind Biles and Ross.
There should be plenty of Americans in the apparatus finals. Maroney topped Biles in the standings of the vault and should at least make the weekend final.
Biles was outstanding on the floor too, letting her muscles do the work on leaps and tumbles while her personality took over on the dance elements.
In all, the United States takes a maximum eight slots in the apparatus finals on top of the maximum two in the all-around.