DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Tom Forster remembers the old days, when the American women’s gymnastics program would head to international events and come home with little more than a good story to tell while watching Russia and Romania make trip after trip to the medal stand.
No gold. No glory. Nothing.
That’s hardly the case anymore. The group that Olympic champion Simone Biles will lead onto the floor tonight at the Aspire Dome during the women’s team final at the world championships is as close to a sure thing as there is in the sport. The Americans topped qualifying by nearly nine points , a staggering margin that offered proof that the gap between the U.S. program and everyone else only seems to be growing.
No matter how the International Gymnastics Federation tinkers with the code of points to try to level the playing field. No matter the faces in the lineup. No matter the venue or the stakes.
“The fact that we’ve come around is so exciting and for me to be part of that, it’s a great honor and I don’t want to mess it up,” said Forster, hired over the summer as high performance coordinator. “I want to make sure that I don’t mess it up.”
No pressure or anything.
“I don’t sleep as well as I used to,” cracked Forster, who for years worked with the USA Gymnastics developmental program.
The Americans have won every major international team and all-around title for the last seven years, a winning streak that shows no signs of abating. And it’s not as if the remarkable Biles — who is dealing with a kidney stone that sent her to the emergency room hours before the competition began — is carrying the load by herself.
Sure, the 21-year-old easily posted the highest score in qualifying while earning a spot in each of the four event finals. Yet even if Biles is removed from the equation, the U.S.’s team total would still be nearly three points clear of the Russians.