McKayla Maroney

McKayla Maroney grabs some redemption by winning World Championships vault title (video)

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McKayla Maroney defended her vault title at the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, on Saturday. It was the same event she won silver on at the Olympics, where she entered as the favorite and became famous for her “not impressed” face on the podium.

Maroney, 17, stuck her first vault, a high-flying Amanar, for 15.966 points, though she came a bit off balance in saluting. It was the highest-scoring vault of the competition.

She had a bit of a delay before being able to perform her second vault. No matter, she scored a 15.483 for a 15.724 average to beat teammate Simone Biles for gold by .129 of a point. Biles (15.595) picked up her second medal of the meet, coupling the silver with all-around gold. North Korea’s Hong Un Jong earned bronze with a two-vault average of 15.483.

“To be completely honest, it was kind of scary,” Maroney said in a video interview published by USA Gymnastics. “There definitely was some pressure on me.

“Looking back isn’t going to help you. Moving forward is the thing you have to do.”

The Olympic gold medalist ahead of Maroney in London, Romania’s Sandra Izbasa, did not compete in Saturday’s final.

An American has won women’s vault at four straight World Championships (Kayla Williams (2009), Alicia Sacramone (2010)).

Maroney came back from a fractured tibia suffered at a post-Olympics gymnastics tour in September with a goal of defending her championship from 2011.

“A lot of people didn’t really believe in me,” Maroney said. “They kind of thought it was a fakey comeback because a lot of gymnasts have kind of done that before.”

Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina, 38, finished fifth. She competed at the 1991 World Championships for the Soviet Union and owns nine World Championship vault medals, including 2011 silver.

Here was Maroney’s facial expression on the podium in London:

source: Reuters

Here was Maroney’s facial expression on the podium Saturday:

source:

“I was trying not to cry,” Maroney said of being on the podium.

Maroney also competed in the all-around at the World Championships, where she did not qualify for the 24-woman final because two Americans finished ahead of her in qualifying.

Maroney’s World Championships are over, but her career is most certainly not:

Women’s Vault Results

Gold: McKayla Maroney (USA) 15.724
Silver: Simone Biles (USA) 15.595
Bronze: Hong Un Jong (PRK) 15.483
4. Giulia Steingruber (SUI) 15.233
5. Oksana Chusovitina (UZB) 14.583
6. Thi Ha Thanh Phan (VIE) 14.299
7. Yamilet Pena Abreu (DOM) 13.966
8. Chantysha Netteb (NED) 6.950

Here are the results and recaps of the other apparatus finals at the World Gymnastics Championships on Saturday:

Men’s Floor Exercise

Gold: Kenzo Shirai (JPN) 16
SIlver: Jacob Dalton (USA) 15.6
Bronze: Kohei Uchimura (JPN) 15.5
4. Daniel Purvis (GBR) 15.4
5. Diego Hypolito (BRA) 15.366
5. Steven Legendre (USA) 15.366
7. Fabian Hambuechen (GER) 15.3
8. Scott Morgan (CAN) 14.833

Shirai, 17, is the youngest male competitor at worlds. His routine, which scored a whopping 16.233 in qualifying, included an unprecedented quadruple twist. No other man scored better than 15.6 in qualifying or finals.

Dalton became the first American man to win a floor exercise medal at a worlds or Olympics since Paul Hamm’s gold in 2003.

Uchimura, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist and 2011 worlds gold medalist, won his 11th career World Championships medal.

Men’s Pommel Horse

Gold: Kohei Kameyama (JPN) 15.833
Silver: Max Whitlock (GBR) 15.633
Silver: Daniel Corral Barron (MEX) 15.633
4. Hongtao Zhang (CHN) 15.6
4. Alberto Busnari (ITA) 15.6
6. Robert Seligman (CRO) 15.433
7. Matvei Petrov (RUS) 15.416
8. Prashanth Sellathurai (AUS) 14.033

Kameyama became the third different Japanese gymnast to win gold in the first three events at the World Championships.

Reigning Olympic and world champion Krisztian Berki of Hungary shockingly failed to qualify for the final. Olympic silver medalist Louis Smith of Great Britain is not competing this year.

No Americans made the final on what is their Achilles heel event. The last U.S. man to win a medal on pommel horse at a worlds or Olympics was Sasha Artemev in 2006 (bronze).

Women’s Uneven Bars

Gold: Huang Huidan (CHN) 15.4
Silver: Kyla Ross (USA) 15.266
Bronze: Aliya Mustafina (RUS) 15.033
4. Simone Biles (USA) 14.716
5. Sophie Scheder (GER) 14.683
6. Yao Jinnan (CHN) 14.633
7. Ruby Harrold (GBR) 14.333
8. Rebecca Downie (GBR) 13.8

Biles’ pursuit of medals in all five events at worlds ended when Mustafina, the all-around bronze medalist, pushed her off the podium.

Still, Ross’ second silver of worlds put the U.S. in position to become the first nation to win a gold or silver in every event for one gender at a World Championships since 1992.

In 1992, the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Republics) men’s team accomplished the feat.

Ross and Biles are both qualified for the final two events Sunday — balance beam and floor exercise.

Men’s Still Rings

Gold: Arthur Zanetti (BRA) 15.8
Silver: Aleksandr Balendin (RUS) 15.733
Bronze: Brandon Wynn (USA) 15.666
4. Yang Liu (CHN) 15.633
5. Lambertus van Gelder (NED) 15.533
5. Samit Ait Said (FRA) 15.5
7. Koji Yamamuro (JPN) 15.433
8. Danny Pinheiro Rodrigues (FRA) 14.566

Wynn, the former Ohio State standout, won the first U.S. World Championships or Olympic medal on still rings since 1994. His score was challenged by the U.S., but the International Gymnastics Federation did not uphold it.

Wynn’s difficulty score had been one tenth higher in qualifying. An extra tenth would have elevated Wynn to silver.

Zanetti followed up his gold medal from the 2012 Olympics. The 2010 and 2011 world champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist was not in the field. That’s China’s Chen Yibing, the “Lord of the Rings.”

Simone Biles’ future after winning all-around

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order