US champion Biles leads at gymnastics worlds

RAF CASERT (AP Sports Writer)

ANTWERP, Belgium (AP) -- Simone Biles used superb floor and vault exercises to sweep past U.S. teammate Kyla Ross Wednesday and take the provisional lead in all-around qualifying at the world gymnastics championships.

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. With only one of five qualifying groups left, Yao Jinnan of China was in third at 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.''

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 16-year-olds, Biles came out on top off 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 with a fall on the opening series of tumbles of the floor exercise.

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.

The U.S. team came into Antwerp without defending champion Jordyn Wieber and Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas. But the Americans are still favored to at least medal on Friday.

McKayla Maroney was 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 provisional 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 letting her personality take over on the dance elements.

In all, Biles could make all apparatus finals on top of her outstanding all-around performance.

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