Simone Biles

U.S. gymnastics wraps up most successful World Championships ever

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The U.S. gymnastics team dominated the World Championships like never before, winning 12 medals (three gold), including five on the final day of competition Sunday.

Simone Biles, 16, was the standout again, winning the floor exercise final. She finished her first international meet with four medals. She also won bronze on balance beam Sunday to give her two golds, one silver and one bronze for the meet.

Kyla Ross, the youngest member of the Olympic team, won her third silver medal in four days in Antwerp, Belgium, this time on beam behind Russian Aliya Mustafina.

On the men’s side, Steven Legendre (silver, vault) and John Orozco (bronze parallel bars) also won medals.

The U.S. won the overall medal count at a worlds or Olympics for the first time since 2005. Its previous medal high was nine at the 2005 World Championships, where all of the medals were won by the women.

China led the medal count at every worlds and Olympics (artistic gymnastics only) from 2006 to 2012.

The Chinese will look to regain the top spot at the 2014 World Championships in Nanning, China, which will include a team competition, unlike this past week’s event.

Here are full results, recaps and videos from Sunday’s event finals:

Women’s Floor Exercise

Gold: Simone Biles (USA) 15
Silver: Vanessa Ferrari (ITA) 14.633
Bronze: Larisa Iordache (ROU) 14.6
4. Mai Murakami (JPN) 14.466
5. Giulia Steingruber (SUI) 14.333
5. Kyla Ross (USA) 14.333
7. Sandra Izbasa (ROU) 13.733
8. Elsabeth Black (CAN) 13.566

Biles wrapped up one of the most successful World Championships by a single athlete ever. She won medals on every event except one, uneven bars, where she finished fourth.

The only other U.S. female gymnasts to win four medals at a single World Championships were Rebecca Bross in 2010 and Nastia Liukin in 2005.

Women’s Balance Beam

Gold: Aliya Mustafina (RUS) 14.9
Silver: Kyla Ross (USA) 14.833
Bronze: Simone Biles (USA) 14.333
4. Vanessa Ferrari (ITA) 14.3
5. Carlotta Ferlito (ITA) 14.283
6. Chunsong Shang (CHN) 14.133
7. Larisa Ioradache (ROU) 13.933
8. Anna Rodionova (RUS) 13.1

Mustafina won the only event she didn’t win a medal in at the 2010 World Championships. She picked up her third medal of worlds, adding to her bronze in the all-around and the uneven bars.

All of the medalists submitted scoring inquiries, disputing their original scores. Ross’ and Biles’ were upheld, moving Ross from 14.733 to 14.833 and Biles from 14.133 to 14.333. That lifted Biles into bronze-medal position.

Ross won her third silver medal of the meet (all-around, uneven bars). Biles added the bronze to her all-around gold and vault silver.

Men’s Vault

Gold: Yang Hak-Seon (KOR) 15.533
Silver: Steven Legendre (USA) 15.249
Bronze: Kristian Thomas (GBR) 15.233
4. Kenzo Shirai (JPN) 15.133
5. Sergio Sasaki Junior (BRA) 15.099
6. Diego Hypolito (BRA) 15.049
7. Marius Daniel Berbecar (ROU) 14.850
8. Oleg Verniaiev (UKR) 14.449

Yang entered as the reigning world and Olympic champion and the favorite. He performed last out of the eight men and posted a 15.733 on the first of his two vaults. That marked the highest score of the competition and pretty much wrapped up the gold.

Legendre ended the longest drought in event finals in U.S. gymnastics, men or women. An American had not won a medal in men’s vault at the Olympics or World Championship since Mitch Gaylord’s silver at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Men’s Parallel Bars

Gold: Kohei Uchimura (JPN) 15.666
Gold: Lin Chaopan (CHN) 15.666
Bronze: John Orozco (USA) 15.333
4. Epke Zonderland (NED) 15.3
5. Marius Daniel Berbecar (ROU) 15
6. Brandon Wynn (USA) 14.266
7. Vasileios Tsolakidis (GRE) 13.433
8. Anton Fokin (UZB) 12.466

Unlike the Olympics, there are no medal tiebreakers at the World Championships. Uchimura and Lin’s tie marked the first double gold at a worlds event since the men’s parallel bars final in 2007.

Uchimura won his third medal of the meet and 12th career worlds medal. Orozco won his first career individual worlds or Olympic medal after blowing out his left knee at a post-Olympics tour stop in October. Only one of the finalists from the 2012 Olympics was in this final (Tsolakidis). The 2011 world champion on parallel bars, American Danell Leyva, withdrew from the U.S. team with a shoulder injury.

Men’s High Bar

Gold: Epke Zonderland (NED) 16
Silver: Fabian Hambuechen (GER) 15.933
Bronze: Kohei Uchimura (JPN) 15.633
4. Sam Mikulak (USA) 15.566
5. Jossimar Orlando Calvo Moreno (COL) 15.466
6. Andreas Bretschneider (GER) 15.158
7. Ryohei Kato (JPN) 15.025
8. Lin Chaopan (CHN) 14.9

The high-flying Dutchman Zonderland followed up his Olympic gold medal on the most exciting event in gymnastics. Hambuechen was the 2007 world champion on high bar. Uchimura won his fourth medal of the meet and 13th of his career.

Mikulak, the U.S. all-around champion, was trying to win his first medal at worlds after stumbling on his final event in the all-around to finish sixth.

Impressed? McKayla Maroney wins vault world title (video)

Deena Kastor withdraws from Olympic marathon trials

Deena Kastor
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Deena Kastor won’t try to make history at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials on Saturday.

Kastor, 42 and the last U.S. woman to earn an Olympic marathon medal (bronze, 2004), will not contest the 26.2-mile race in Los Angeles due to a recent glute muscle strain.

“I was diligent in resting, but my glute just won’t settle down,” Kastor said in a USA Track and Field press release.

If Kastor, the second-fastest U.S. female marathoner in 2015, had finished in the top three at the trials in Los Angeles (live on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday), she would have become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner of all time.

Kastor wasn’t thought to be a contender for the Rio Olympics until Oct. 11, when she clocked 2:27:47 at the Chicago Marathon. It marked her best time since her American record 2:19:36 at the 2006 London Marathon.

With Kastor out, the list of female contenders shrinks. That list still includes the top four women from the 2012 U.S. Olympic marathon trials — Shalane Flanagan, Desi Linden, Kara Goucher and Amy Cragg.

Meb Keflezighi, 40, can become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner if he finishes in the top three in the men’s race Saturday.

U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials Previews: Men | Women

Kenya banned athletes allege doping bribery

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EMBU, Kenya (AP) — Two Kenyan athletes serving four-year bans for doping at the 2015 World Track and Field Championships say the chief executive of Athletics Kenya, the country’s governing body for track and field, asked them each for a $24,000 bribe to reduce their suspensions.

Joy Sakari and Francisca Koki Manunga told The Associated Press that CEO Isaac Mwangi asked for the payment in an Oct. 16 meeting, but that they could not raise the money. They were then were informed of their four-year bans in a Nov. 27 email, but never filed a criminal complaint because, they say, they had no proof to back up their bribery accusation and also feared repercussions.

Mwangi dismissed the allegation as “just a joke,” denied ever meeting privately with the athletes and said Athletics Kenya has no power to shave time off athletes’ bans.

“We have heard stories, athletes coming and saying, ‘Oh, you know, I was asked for money,'” Mwangi said. “But can you really substantiate that?”

Sakari, a 400m runner, and Manunga, a hurdler, told AP they would be willing to testify to the ethics commission of the IAAF, the global governing body of athletics.

The commission already is investigating allegations that AK officials sought to subvert anti-doping in Kenya, solicited bribes and offered athletes reduced bans. The probe has led to the suspensions of AK’s president, Isaiah Kiplagat, a vice president, David Okeyo, and AK’s former treasurer, Joseph Kinyua.

Sharad Rao, a former director of prosecutions in Kenya who also has adjudicated cases for the Court of Arbitration for Sport, is leading the ethics investigation for the International Association of Athletics Federations. Sakari and Manunga’s decision to come forward could be a breakthrough, because Kenyan athletes have been unwilling to act as whistleblowers.

“There is obviously the reluctance on the part of the athletes to come forward,” Rao said. “They don’t want to stand out.”

As many as a half-dozen banned athletes have privately indicated to the IAAF commission that AK officials sought to extort them and that they feel their sanctions might have been less if they had paid bribes, Rao said.

AP’s interview with Sakari and Manunga is the first time Kenyan athletes have detailed such allegations publicly.

“That information would, of course, be very, very significant, very important for us,” Rao said.

Rao said he has been talking to at least one other athlete who may have been approached for a bribe, and that his first priority was to get responses from Kiplagat, Okeyo and Kinyua — all three of whom have flatly denied to him that they took or solicited bribes.

Sakari and Manunga, both police officers in Kenya, said Mwangi asked them for 2.5 million Kenyan shillings — or $24,000 — each.

“I told him I’ve never seen that much money in my life,” Manunga told AP. “Even if I sold everything, I wouldn’t be able to get together that amount of money.”

The athletes tested positive in August for furosemide, a diuretic banned because it can mask the use of forbidden performance-enhancers, and were sent home from the worlds in Beijing. They told AP the drug was sold to them by a chemist in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, who said it would alleviate side effects of supplements they were taking. The chemist testified in defense of the athletes to AK, saying he gave them furosemide to combat water-retention caused by the supplement.

Compared to doping cases involving other athletes, their four-year bans appear harsh. World Anti-Doping Agency rules classify furosemide as a so-called “specified substance,” distinguishing it from hardcore performance-enhancers like steroids or the blood-boosting hormone EPO.

For specified substances, IAAF rules allow for lesser bans of no more than two years, or even just a reprimand and no ban, if athletes can prove they weren’t at fault or negligent.

To impose a four-year ban, the rules require authorities to establish that athletes intentionally cheated. But AK appears to have discounted the chemist’s testimony. In the letter it sent to Manunga announcing her ban, AK said there was no “plausible explanation” for using furosemide and that the federation “can only infer” she took it intentionally as a masking agent.

Last year, Serbia’s athletics federation imposed a two-year ban on 800m runner Nemanja Kojic for the same substance. He can return to competition in 2017; Sakari and Manunga were banned until 2019.

They said they visited Mwangi’s first-floor office together, seeking news of their case. During that meeting, they said, he asked for the bribe, dangling the possibility of shaving time off their bans.

Both athletes say they are sure of the date of that meeting — Oct. 16 — because, they say, they went to the KCB bank together later that day to open accounts and deposit 600,000 Kenya shillings ($5,785) paid to each of them for being on Kenya’s team in the Bahamas.

“He was waiting for us to give him money, so that this ‘thing’ disappears,” Manunga said. “We left, kept quiet and later that’s when our names came out and we were told that we’ve been banned because we did not deliver that money.”

“He asked us if we could give him something. That’s what he said,” said Sakari. “He asked for money.”

Mwangi denied that he met privately with the athletes.

“Why we avoid those kinds of things is because we know athletes are fond of making any kind of claim,” he told AP.

“It is not possible to give anyone money to meddle with your case,” he added. “I will contact the athletes officially and I will ask the athletes to come, the two of them, and like I said they are police officers, so we will have to involve the police force.”

Soliciting a bribe is a crime in Kenya.

The athletes have told their story privately to the Professional Athletics Association of Kenya, an advocacy group of Kenyan runners. The association’s secretary, Julius Ndegwa, said Sakari and Manunga came to see him and a lawyer in January.

The athletes spoke to AP in an on-camera interview in Embu, a ramshackle town 130 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Nairobi where they were housed in police accommodation.

Sakari also raced at the 2012 London Olympics and 2009 Worlds. In Beijing, she competed under the name Zakary, but Sakari is her preferred spelling. She indicated that she is now done with athletics, because she will be 33 when her ban expires.

Manunga, 23, said she would have paid to return sooner to competition.

“For me, those four years are too many,” she said. “If I had the money, I’d have paid. But I didn’t have it. So I just left.”

MORE: Kenya marathon runner-up arrested for cheating in race