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Behind Simone Biles, U.S. women romp in Olympic gymnastics team qualifying

Behind Simone Biles, U.S. women romp in Olympic gymnastics team qualifying

RIO DE JANEIRO – It would have been easy to do it, but Gabby Douglas didn’t blame the two-per-country rule that will keep her from defending her Olympic all-around gold.

She rued not getting her Amanar vault back just a little. But the rule that’s been the greatest limiter of American success didn’t draw her ire.

“I feel like the two-per-country rule is fine,” Douglas said, who finished third in Olympic qualifying. “I’m feeling pretty confident, and I’m rejoicing now. It’s been an amazing experience so far. I would have loved to go back and defend my title, but you know what? It’s been an amazing ride. I can’t complain.”

Following qualifying at the Rio Olympic Arena on Sunday, it’s Simone Biles and Aly Raisman who will advance to the all-around after the Americans’ jaw-dropping rout to advance to the team final.

The Americans scored 185.238 to take a 9.979 lead over China with one qualifying round to go later Sunday. Japan and Canada, the best teams in that final, could only cut into the lead.

Biles’ spot was never really in question – she scored 62.366 to win by more than 1.7 points – but Raisman and Douglas were fighting for the second spot.

Vault proved to be key in determining who would advance to the all-around final on Thursday.

Raisman hit what she said is the best Amanar of her life. The vault, which is a roundoff onto the board followed by a 21/2 twisting layout back flip, is one of the most difficult vaults being competed today.

Douglas competed that vault in London, but she hasn’t attempted it in competition in her comeback. Raisman beat Douglas by .476 in the all-around and held a .600 advantage on vault.

“The two-per-country rule is always very heartbreaking. I’ve been on both sides of it,” said Raisman, who was the odd woman out at world championships last year where Douglas won silver behind Biles.

“I think she has a lot to be proud of. She looked amazing.”

For her part, national team coordinator Martha Karolyi is not such a fan of the rule. The International Federation of Gymnastics instituted the rule after the Romanians initially swept the podium. (Gold medalist Andreea Raducan was later disqualified after failing a drug test for cold medicine.)

“It’s that global, involving everybody, leaving chance for everybody,” said Karoyli. “I feel like when we’re talking about individuals, it should be at least three gymnasts who are going because this way some fairly lower level gymnastics will be even in finals and some girls with high level will sit out and watch.”

The three Americans were the only ones to top 60 points in the all-around in the first four sessions. Now Biles – a practical shoo-in to win the title after winning the past three world championships – and Raisman will try to claim the top two spots.

For Raisman, it’s a chance at the medal she missed in London after losing a tiebreaker to finish fourth.

For Douglas, team finals – where the Americans can have a bad day and still win gold – await, and she’ll have uneven bar finals later in the week.

So while she and coach Christian Gallardo would have loved for her to be able to defend the all-around title, there was no reason to blame the rule on a night when so much went so well for Douglas.

“It’s tough, but you have to go into it knowing our team is incredible,” Gallardo said. “We’re up by almost 10 points and any one of these girls from our team can go out and place in the all-around. It’s still good. Third in the world is still pretty solid.”[…]

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