Coming into this year’s World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Doha, Qatar, the first international competition since the Rio 2016 Olympic games for Simone Biles, the thought was nothing, not even herself, could stop the four-time Olympic gold medal winner from picking back up right where she left off. Fast forward 12 hours and not even an overnight hospital visit for kidney stones could stop the queen of gymnastics.

Biles, the U.S.’ leader in Doha and arguably the most decorated gymnast of all-time, showed once again why many question if she is indeed human, shrugging off the hospital scare to sit in first place on each event- second on the uneven bars- and in the all-around with dominating, near-perfect performances on the first day of women’s qualifications at this World Championships.

Leading the U.S. on uneven bars, an event the legendary American used to consider her weakest prior to her comeback in 2018, Biles showed an excellent routine nearing the top of the world on the apparatus, scoring a 14.866 to sit in second- the only event where Biles does not lead- just behind gold-medal favorite Nina Derwael of Belgium who posted an even better 15.066.

The Biles Express continued onto the balance beam, another event the American has a point to prove on after only picking up a bronze at the last Olympic Games in Rio, showing her usual combination of confidence, precision, and power to post another big score of 14.800.

Simone Biles prior to mounting the beam during qualifications at the 2018 World Championships Photo: John Cheng

On her signature event floor exercise, where she already owns a skill named after her, the 21 year-old was absolutely flawless, giving up no such out of bounds deductions on her tumbling like she did this summer, hitting her uber-difficult routine with incredible control for a mammoth 15.333, greater than a point ahead of the next gymnast on floor, where reigning floor World champion Mai Murakami sits with a 14.100.

Concluding a stellar competition- one where Biles is just getting started this World Championships- the American superstar shrugged off the kidney stones of 12 hours prior to debut a never-before competed vault, a roundoff half-on double-full, executing it nearly perfectly to put down a marker for the rest of the field with her huge 15.966, casually earning a second skill in her name in the Code of Points.

While conquering kidney stones and some of the hardest gymnastics skills in the world was quite the achievement, Biles wasn’t the only U.S. athlete impressing in qualifications. Reigning World all-around champion Morgan Hurd showed she truly is second best behind her American teammate, finishing second all-around after day one of qualifications with a 56.465 to Biles’ 60.965.

Hurd impressed on uneven bars as the first competitor for the U.S. squad, scoring a very solid 14.66 for fourth on the event. On balance beam, where the 17 year-old won a silver medal at last year’s Worlds, Hurd impressed with her confident set for a 13.466, however due to Biles and fellow American Kara Eaker’s performances, Hurd will be unable to make the beam final. Hurd however will have a chance at the floor final, finishing third after the first day of qualifications behind Biles and Japan’s Murakami with a strong 13.933.

It’s a similar fate Riley McCusker will face with the bars and floor finals, where despite scoring 14.133 and 13.266 for sixth and eighth respectively, the American will be left out of both event finals due to the two per-country rule. McCusker also sits in fifth in the all-around standings with a very respectable total of 54.765, unfortunately behind teammates Biles and Hurd however.

That won’t apply however to Kara Eaker and Grace McCallum on Team USA. Eaker and McCallum, both World Championships debutants, impressed with confident gymnastics to sit in the top eight and in position to reach an event final after day one of qualifications. Eaker’s beautiful artistry and uber-difficult connections on beam earned her a big 14.466 for second behind Biles, while McCallum sits in fifth on vault with a two-vault score of 14.066.

Team USA women at qualifications at the 2018 World Championships Photo: John Cheng

In the team competition where the top eight will also advance to the team final, the U.S. leads the way as expected after day one of qualifications with a whopping total of 174.429, leading second-place team Japan by over 12 points. Just behind Japan is Germany, then the Netherlands, and finally Belgium sitting in fifth place.

Day two of women’s qualifications takes place Sunday, with top contenders like Russia, China, Great Britain, and others beginning their World Championships.

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