25 Sep Preview: Top Women’s Storylines for the 2023 World Championships
Inside Gymnastics will be on the scene in Antwerp, Belgium bringing you all the action from the 2023 World Championships! Make sure you’re subscribed to our YouTube Channel and following our social media pages (X, Facebook, Instagram & Threads) for news and highlights throughout the weekend.
For the full competition draw and rotation order, click here.
Sunday, October 1
- Qualifications Subdivision 1 | Italy, Netherlands, AS1 & AS2 | 10 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 2 | Taiwan, USA, AA4 & AA7 | 11:45 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 3 | Great Britain, South Korea, South Africa & AA2 | 1:30 p.m. ET
Monday, October 2
- Qualifications Subdivision 4 | Spain, Belgium, Romania & AA1 | 4 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 5 | Mexico, Sweden, AA3 & AA9 | 5:30 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 6 | Australia, Brazil, AA6 & AA12 | 7 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 7 | Austria, Canada, AA5 & AA10 | 10:15 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 8 | Germany, Hungary, Finland & AA13 | 11:45 a.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 9 | Japan, Czechia, Argentina & AA8 | 1:45 p.m. ET
- Qualifications Subdivision 10 | France, China, AA11 & AA14 | 3:15 p.m. ET
Top Women’s Storylines for the 2023 World Championships
By Ashlee Buhler, Christy Sandmaier and Anna Rose Johnson
The Road to Paris 2024 is in full swing and the stage is set! Next Stop: Antwerp, Belgium for the 2023 World Championships!
“Get Moved by Motion” — the theme of the competition — emphasizes the spirit of the sport we love, encompassing all of its motion and emotion on the world’s largest stage. As we anticipate all of the incredible moments of brilliance these athletes will bring to the floor with the 2024 Olympic Games on the horizon, no words seem more appropriate as we await all of the new headlines only a World Championship can write. It will be historic. Emotional. Moving.
With Simone Biles back for Team USA capturing the storylines and under the glaring spotlight, new stars rising to the occasion and Olympic tickets up for grabs, the competition in Antwerp is certain to be one of the most exciting World Championships we’ve seen to date. From the thrilling team final — Will the women of Team USA capture their seventh World title? — to the battle for the coveted All-Around crowns and individual event golds, new champions will rise to the top, dreams will be ignited, and fresh faces will look to make a statement just one year out from Paris!
Return of the Queen
Full Circle Moment: Biles Looks For Number Six
10 years ago Simone Biles made her World Championship debut in the very same arena where she’ll make her return to international competition for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics. At both the Core Hydration Classic and the Xfinity U.S. Championships this year, Biles looked undeniable. With the massive scoring potential of her Yurchenko double pike (she has scored a 15.400 and 15.700 this year domestically, despite incurring an automatic five-tenth deduction for her coach standing on the mat), combined with her clean execution and ability to go 14+ on the other three events, Biles should once again be in a league of her own, barring anything out of the ordinary.
While it will be tough to top Biles on her quest for World All-Around title number six, especially if she brings any upgrades, you can never count out reigning World All-Around Champion Rebeca Andrade of Brazil. Andrade has saved her 2023 All-Around debut for Antwerp, leaving her maximum scoring potential a bit of a mystery, but if you take the start values from her gold medal-winning performance last year in Liverpool (plus her upgraded bars routine from the recent Paris World Cup), Andrade will undoubtedly be in the conversation for a medal, but still trails Biles in difficulty by approximately one and a half points. However, as we saw at the U.S. World Selection Camp, anything can happen in a sport like gymnastics and Biles can’t have an off day without her closest competitors sneaking up on her. Expect Andrade to be ready to fight no matter what!
The United States’ next best bet for a medal will likely be Shilese Jones, who finished second to Biles at the U.S. Championships and finished second to Andrade in Liverpool last year. Jones shines in the execution department and has looked extremely confident so far this year, so if she can keep that momentum going, she’ll make a strong case for the podium. With her routines from Day 2 of the Xfinity U.S. Championships, Jones will be nearly a point behind Andrade’s expected difficulty, but has some upgrades in the works that could close the gap. The battle between Andrade and Jones is one we’re really looking forward to!
Other names in the mix are reigning World All-Around bronze medalist and reigning European All-Around Champion Jessica Gadirova (GBR), 2023 European All-Around bronze medalist Alice D’Amato (ITA), and Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos (FRA), who is fresh off a golden performance at the Paris Challenge Cup where she won the uneven bars and beam titles. Also be on the lookout for rising Italian star Manila Esposito, who finished second to Alice this year at the Italian Championships with a very competitive all-around score (57.000).
Defending What’s Theirs — Team USA Women Centerstage for 7
The Women of Team USA have taken the title the last six times a team competition was held at the World Championships, and in Antwerp, all eyes will be on them as the Greatest of All Time returns and leads one of the most decorated teams the U.S. has ever fielded.
It was nearly one year ago that tears were rolling and history was being made all over the M&S Bank Arena during the 2022 Women’s Team Final in Liverpool, and when the chalk dust settled and the lights came up, the United States claimed its sixth consecutive team gold medal, becoming the only team in history to hold such a streak.
In Antwerp, eight-time U.S. National Champion Simone Biles, together with 2022 World All-Around and uneven bars silver medalist Shilese Jones; 2022 team gold medalist Skye Blakely; 2021 World All-Around silver and floor exercise bronze medalist Leanne Wong; and first-time Worlds competitor, 2023 U.S. vault champion Joscelyn Roberson, will lead Team USA into their marquee event. With Biles back and an incredible wealth of experience, athleticism, originality, and difficulty on the roster, Team USA will be centerstage as the most decorated team in the world and ready to defend what’s theirs.
At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the U.S. women stood on the medal podium with silver medals draped around their necks. 15 months later, a team woven together with newcomers, veterans, and collegiate stars was once again golden, officially earning their spot to Paris 2024. Signed, sealed, delivered. It was a team born of a U.S. program in leadership transition, and one in which several in both fan and media circles—following a second place finish to Brazil at the 2022 Pan American Championships—even questioned their gold medal-winning potential and future. Could this team win without Simone Biles or 2020 Olympic All-Around Champion Suni Lee on their roster? Better believe it. There was a magic surrounding that team and there is no doubt the lineup in Antwerp will be chasing their own memories and history.
Following the team final in Liverpool, Jones suggested an unprecedented era in U.S. women’s gymnastics was on the horizon, noting: “This is just the beginning of everybody’s comeback career. Just wait and see. I’m super proud and I know we’ll be able to hit something big in ’24.”
As the saying goes, 2023 has entered the chat.
The Race for Paris Resumes
On the women’s side, the United States, Great Britain and Canada have already punched their tickets to Paris. The final nine countries will be determined in Antwerp!
To qualify, a country must place in the top nine in the team final (of course, subtracting the previously qualified teams)! Click here for a breakdown of all the qualification procedures!
Several big names will be looking to secure their berth and should have no problem doing so, including Brazil—who just may be better than ever with Andrade, a healthy Flavia Saraiva, and two-time World bronze medalist Jade Barbosa back in the mix. While qualifying to Paris is the main objective, the Brazilian women, who finished fourth in Liverpool, have never won a World team medal. With a solid combination of experience and difficulty on the roster headed to Antwerp, don’t be surprised if this is the year history is made!
Italy will look to qualify without several of their star athletes, including Asia D’Amato, who tore her ACL at the Cairo World Cup earlier this year, Martina Maggio, who had surgery on her foot over the summer, and Giorgia Villa, who made the Italian team but later withdrew from the competition due to a back issue. However, Italy still has a very strong team capable of qualifying to Paris, led by 2019 World team bronze medalists Elisa Iorio and Alice D’Amato, as well as rising star Manila Esposito, who won a silver with the team and on beam at the European Championships this year.
Hoping to lock in a team spot at their home Olympics, France is bringing an experienced and talented team to Antwerp led by 2019 European All-Around Champion Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos, 2022 World vault bronze medalist Coline Devillard, 2-time European beam medalist Marine Boyer, and 3-time European medalist Lorette Charpy. As the excitement and energy for Paris 2024 continues to build, it’s hard to envision anything less than stellar performances from the French team in Antwerp as long as they can keep the nerves in check.
Of course you can’t forget about Japan, who was close to landing on the medal podium last year in Liverpool if not for a disappointing final rotation on uneven bars. Luckily they return with Miyata Shoko, who stole our hearts last year and finished second on beam and 7th all-around. We’ll have our eyes on her once again as well as 2021 World beam champion Ashikawa Urara, who is back after being left off Japan’s World Championships team in 2022. Notably missing from Japan’s team is reigning World beam champion Hazuki Wantabe, who is out with an ACL injury. Nevertheless, this is a team that should have no problem punching a ticket to Paris.
There are a number of teams right on the brink. Germany is without their star Elisabeth Seitz, as well as 2022 European beam champion Emma Malewski, who injured her foot just days before the action was set to kick off in Antwerp. The German’s still have a talented team with three-time beam World medalist Pauline Schäfer and 2022 European team bronze medalist Sarah Voss back from injury, but qualifying a team won’t be any easy task with such a steep loss of leadership and scoring potential. This team will need to be dialed in and ready to fight with everything they have.
Coming off a bronze medal performance as a team at the 2023 European Championships, the Netherlands will take that same group to Antwerp and hope to lock in a team spot. It’s a solid group for the Dutch, with veterans like 4-time European medalist Eythora Thorsdottir and 2016 Olympic beam champion Sanne Wevers leading the charge. This is a team that will rely on execution and consistency to punch that ticket.
Then of course there is China, who has the talent as always; they just need to find consistency among a group of newcomers. Tokyo Olympian Ou Yushan is one of the most experienced members of the Chinese team (in fact she’s the only one who has competed at a World Championships at the senior level), so her experience will certainly be relied upon. Then there are newcomers ripe with potential like Wu Ran, who won three gold medals at the 2022 Asian Championships, and Qiu Qiyuan who has had a stellar year so far, winning gold on bars at the Baku World Cup, as well as three gold medals (including the all-around title) at both the Chinese National Championships and Asian Championships. This is a team that has a good amount of difficulty, particularly on bars and beam, but consistency will be key in order to punch their ticket to Paris.
Team Belgium has a lot of adversity to overcome at their home World Championships if they want to qualify a team to Paris. With their star Nina Derwael, who of course is a 2-time World Champion and the reigning Olympic Champion on uneven bars, out with a shoulder injury, as well 2023 European vault bronze medalist Lisa Vaelen out with an illness, the team’s path to Paris isn’t clearcut. While the team won’t be able to recover those scores, approaching the competition with a positive mindset could inspire the team to leave everything on the floor and do it for each other. Look for Tokyo Olympian Maellyse Brassart to lead the way for the Belgian team at home.
A weakened Belgian team could also be the perfect opportunity for a team like Mexico, South Korea or Australia to make a return to the Olympics as a team. So who will it be?
The College Try
More than ever before, NCAA gymnastics is booming within the elite gymnastics space!
Whether they’re making their elite debut fresh off the conclusion of their college careers, or managing both simultaneously, we’re seeing more and more gymnasts pushing the boundaries of what is considered possible in the sport!
Be on the lookout for several current or former NCAA stars in Antwerp!
- Leanne Wong (USA) – Florida Junior – Subdivision 2
- Anya Pilgrim (Barbados) – Florida Freshman – Subdivision 5
- Sandra Elsadek (Egypt) – Ball State/Georgia Alum – Subdivision 6
- Lynnzee Brown (Haiti) – Denver Alum – Subdivision 7
- Aleah Finnegan (Philippines) – LSU Junior – Subdivision 8
- Csenge Bacskay (Hungary) – Nebraska Sophomore – Subdivision 8
The X Factor—Battle of the Bars
Coming for Gold!
The uneven bars final at Worlds is often an extremely competitive one, and 2023 will be no different, even though this year’s field is shaping up a bit differently than usual. With perennial bars contender Russia out of the competition, as was the case last year, the field is a bit wider open this time—especially since other prominent names will be missing in Antwerp. Sadly, four-time World bars medalist (and 2020 Olympic champion) Nina Derwael of Belgium injured her shoulder and will have to miss Antwerp, and 2018 World bars bronze medalist Elisabeth Seitz of Germany recently tore her Achilles. 2019 World bars silver medalist Becky Downie will also be missing in Antwerp. Downie was named an alternate to the British team and posted on social media that she had been dealing with migraines which have impacted her performance. Olympic bronze medalist Suni Lee is still working her way back from some kidney related health issues and opted not to try for the U.S. team this year.
So who has a shot at victory in this year’s final? We could definitely see some big numbers from the competitors in Antwerp. The winner could possibly be China’s Qiu Qiyuan, who won the uneven bars gold at the 2023 Asian Championships (6.7 D-score) or Huang Zhuofan, who won silver on the event at this year’s Chinese Championships with a 6.5 D-score. As always the Chinese are pure artists on their signature event—their challenge is hitting the right routine at the right time.
Athletes also in the mix could be Alice D’Amato of Italy (6.3 D-score), who won the bars title at this year’s European Championships, Mélanie de Jesus dos Santos of France (6.3 D-score) who won gold on the event at the recent Paris World Cup, and Rebeca Andrade of Brazil (6.4 D-score), who took home the silver on bars at the Paris World Cup with an upgraded toe-full double-double dismount.
Poetry in Motion… We’ve got our eyes on 2021 French uneven bars national champion, Kaylia Nemour, who now represents Algeria. Nemour won gold at the African Championships earlier this year with a 6.9 D-score—which is the highest D-score in the world. She also took the bronze at the Paris World Cup in September and could be one of the breakout stars in Antwerp.
From the United States, we’ll be looking to Shilese Jones as a main contender (she puts up a 6.3 D-score without any of her anticipated upgrades). Jones won bars silver last year in Liverpool, and took home the gold at the 2023 U.S. Championships, making her the USA’s likeliest candidate to make the final and medal in Antwerp. (She told the media in San Jose she’s aiming for gold on the event in Antwerp!) And of course, we can never count out Simone Biles, who won silver at the 2018 World Championships in Doha!
Eyes Out for Eponymous Skills + Skills To Watch!
Because. She. Can.
Right out of the gates, the world will be watching for The GOAT’s now legendary Yurchenko double pike. Aka The Vault Heard ‘Round the World! First performed in 2021 at the U.S. Classic, Simone launched the vault into the stratosphere at the Core Hydration Classic in August. If she does it in Antwerp—and all indications say it’s a go—it will be the fifth skill named after Biles, who already has one on vault, one on beam and two on floor. The FIG gave the Yurchenko double pike a provisional 6.6 last quad. However, since all vaults were devalued by four tenths in the new code, the vault was expected to be a 6.2.) This year, it was given a 6.4 by USA Gymnastics judges at Classics and Championships. At the time, USAG officials said the plan was to submit the Yurchenko double tuck, in the hopes that the FIG would value that vault as a 6.2, and the double pike a 6.4. At the U.S. Women’s World Trials, U.S. women’s technical lead Chellsie Memmel confirmed the double pike had been submitted and given a 6.4 value!
“I was actually very surprised!” Biles said after the selection camp. “I think I was expected to be disappointed because in the past we’ve asked for stuff and then don’t get rewarded for it, so I’m actually really happy … Maybe we should ask for higher!” [Laughs]
Also on the radar for Team USA is Shilese Jones’ triple L turn, which she debuted on the second day of competition at the Xfinity U.S. Gymnastics Championships. Jones submitted the skill, along with Japan’s Hatakeda Chiaki,and it was given an “E” rating.
Then there’s the artistry element and the ever present E-score debate. With this quad’s Code of Points, judges are said to be really zoning in on artistry deductions more than ever before. On their radar: Good body posture, pointed feet, choreography that involves every part of the body, sufficient elongation (making your poses as big as possible), a solid rhythm and tempo between movements, and expression that matches the style of music. Judges can take a tenth for each category, meaning up to 1.2 points can be taken on beam and 1.6 points on floor. Look for Flavia Saraiva, Leanne Wong, the women from the Netherlands — Eythora Thorsdottir in particular on floor, as well the Japanese women on beam where it seems the judges have really been appreciating their artistry under this Code. These women capture artistry, musicality, showmanship and more and to us, truly represent what women’s artistic gymnastics is all about.