Simone Biles

American Simone Biles wins World Gymnastics Championships all-around title (video)

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The world’s best female gymnast is Simone Biles, a 16-year-old Texan with braces who beat a field of Olympians to win the world all-around title in her first major international meet.

Biles, the 2013 U.S. all-around champion, scored 60.216 points, coming from behind after three of four rotations to overtake teammate Kyla Ross, who had 59.332 points.

Russian Aliya Mustafina, the 2010 world all-around champion, won bronze with 58.856 in Antwerp, Belgium, on Friday.

Ross, the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic champion team, led by a tiny .016 of a point going into the final rotation, floor exercise.

Biles had a huge advantage over Ross going into that event, outscoring her by .7 in qualifying and .45 and .8 at the U.S. Championships in August.

It would have been a shock if Biles didn’t pass Ross on the final event. She delivered a 15.233 after Ross posted a 14.333 to become the seventh U.S. woman to win a world all-around title.

“It feels pretty good, but it hasn’t really sunken in yet, but I know what I’ve done is a big accomplishment,” Biles said in a video interview posted by USA Gymnastics.

The World Championships conclude with apparatus finals this weekend, including McKayla Maroney on vault Saturday.

World Gymnastics Championships broadcast schedule

Biles received a big boost on her opening event, vault. She performed an Amanar, which carried an extra half-twist and a half-point higher start value than the vaults of Ross and Mustafina. Biles led by nearly a half-point over Ross and almost a full point over Mustafina after the first rotation.

Though Ross outscored Biles on the next two apparatus, uneven bars and balance beam, she needed a much bigger advantage going into floor exercise to have a chance at gold.

Over the last 10 years, 10 different female gymnasts have been the highest-placing American at the World Championships or Olympics. This speaks to the extraordinary turnover in a sport where the last three U.S. Olympic teams were all rookies.

Biles could very well still be on top next year. She’s young enough to still be on the rise, and the top two U.S. juniors from this year are too young to enter senior competitions in 2014. And who knows what form Gabby DouglasAly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber will be in if and when they return.

But what about 2016? Biles must show staying power not seen in women’s gymnastics in the last two Olympic cycles. In 2005, Chellsie Memmel won the World Championship, but injuries kept her from being an all-arounder at the 2008 Olympics.

In 2009, Bridget Sloan and Rebecca Bross went one-two at the World Championships. Neither made the 2012 Olympic team.

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Haven Denney, Brandon Frazier win U.S. pairs title after year off

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier perform in the championship pairs short program during the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier returned from a year off to win their first U.S. pairs title on Saturday, despite an error-prone free skate and against a field lacking any previous U.S. champion teams.

Denney and Frazier jumped from second after the short program to total 188.32 points and win by 2.04 over Sochi Olympian Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran. Denney and Frazier’s total score was 23.33 points fewer than last year’s winning score.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, who led by 3.96 after the short program, had a strong free skate going until a fall on their throw triple Lutz and finished third Saturday.

Full results are here.

Denney and Frazier were the top U.S. pair in the fall international season by 16 points, taking a silver medal at Skate America.

But Denney struggled on landings in the short program, her right leg wrapped after blowing out her right knee in spring 2015 that caused them to miss the entire 2015-16 season. They also had multiple jumping errors in their free skate, but, unlike the rest of the top five, stayed on their feet Saturday.

“We’re trying harder elements, harder jumps, bigger throws, bigger twists,” Frazier said. “What you see is a couple of ups and downs. This is all building for the next season.”

The U.S. will send two pairs to the world championships in Helsinki in two months, but not definitively the top two finishers from Saturday. The world championships pairs teams will be named Sunday.

Denney and Frazier finished 12th at the 2015 Worlds, after placing second at that year’s U.S. Championships. Castelli and Tran, in their second year as a pair, have no worlds experience together and are ineligible for the 2018 Olympics. Tran, born in Canada, is not a U.S. citizen.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. pair to earn an Olympic or world medal was Kyoka Ina and John Zimmerman at the 2002 Worlds. Eight different pairs have won the last nine U.S. titles.

In 2016, the U.S. pairs finished ninth and 13th at worlds, but both of those teams are out due to injuries.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, the top U.S. pair in international competition in recent seasons, has been out of competition all season due to her September stomach surgery. They have returned to full training.

The Knierims filed a petition to be named to the world championships team, which is selected on a discretionary basis on results from the U.S. Championships and other recent competitions.

“Whatever they decide,” Tran said of a U.S. Figure Skating selection committee, “we’re all for that.”

The 2016 U.S. champions Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea withdrew before the free skate Saturday after Kayne suffered a concussion in a short-program fall. They placed fifth in the short program.

The U.S. Championships continue Saturday night with the women’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Check out NBCsports.com/USFIGS for all-access coverage all weekend.

VIDEO: Tara Lipinski reflects on 1997 U.S. title at age 14

U.S. Championships Pairs
GOLD: Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier — 188.32
SILVER: Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran — 186.28
BRONZE: Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc — 184.41

4. Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay — 173.50
5. Jessica Pfund/Joshua Santillan — 168.90

Tara Lipinski reflects on winning 1997 U.S. title at age 14

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Tara Lipinski says she can remember everything about the 1997 U.S. Championships, when she became the youngest national champion at age 14.

The victory 20 years ago helped catapult her to become the youngest individual Winter Olympic champion of all time a year later.

“It changed my life in that moment [in 1997],” said Lipinski, now an NBC Olympics analyst. “That was when you talk about peaking at the right time. I knew when I stepped off the ice as a national champion, I can be Olympic champion.”

In 1996, Lipinski finished third at age 13 at the U.S. Championships behind Michelle Kwan, who won the first of her nine U.S. titles. Lipinski then struggled at the world championships, taking 15th, while Kwan won.

So Lipinski was certainly not the favorite going into the 1997 U.S. Championships in Nashville.

But she delivered an unforgettable performance, landing seven triple jumps in her free skate, including the first triple loop-triple loop combination, to surpass the short program leader Kwan, who fell twice in her free skate.

“I always got very nervous,” Lipinski said. “Now to be a broadcaster on live television, I always wonder, why do I pick these professions where there’s a lot of pressure? It’s because I love it, and I thrive under it. Looking back then, it was interesting to look back and remember how nervous I was and then that relief and that pure joy. Then realizing what happened in the next year, and how I was able to get to the point that I did still gives me chills. I have to sort of pinch myself.”

For perspective on how long ago that victory was, check out this story from the Chicago Tribune:

Within an hour of Tara Lipinski’s victory at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Saturday night, a “media alert” was on the information table in the press room at the Nashville Arena to announce Lipinski’s site on the Internet.

“Visit America’s hottest sensation at `www.TaraLipinski.com’ ” said the press release from the skater’s agency, Edge Marketing. “Visitors can dive inside Tara’s life by checking out her biography, famiily life stories and other fun facts about Tara (i.e., which of Tara’s talents might pose a threat to Martha Stewart?).”

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