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)

Pressure on Ashley Wagner at world championships

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Ashley Wagner‘s four-year plan has her peaking in 2018, not at the 2017 World Championships, but many call Wagner to carry the U.S. women at worlds in Helsinki next week.

“Next year is the year that I am, like, in it to kill,” she said. “This year is maintaining. This year is my chance to work out all of the kinks, figure out where I want to be mentally going into next year.”

Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist, is the only skater of three American women on this year’s worlds team with prior worlds experience. She is the only one ranked higher than 20th in the world this season.

Normally, figure skating is an individual sport. But next week, the top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no greater than 13 (Wagner places third, and either U.S. champion Karen Chen or U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell places 10th or better, for example).

If not, the U.S. will have two rather than the maximum three women’s entries at the PyeongChang Olympics. The U.S. had three spots at four of the last five Olympics.

Anything less than three in 2018 would mean the U.S. is not keeping up with world power Russia and maybe even Canada and Japan. And it becomes that much harder for Wagner and everyone else to make the Olympic team.

“I know that I have a huge role in these three spots at these world championships,” Wagner said. “I need to set this team up as good as I possibly can, so that way the pressure’s off the other girls.”

The others are the 17-year-old Chen, the surprise winner at the U.S. Championships in January, who then placed 12th at February’s Four Continents Championships, an event that doesn’t include Europeans. Chen said she suffered from nerves, a flu and foot pain caused by broken boots at Four Continents.

And Bell, who took silver at October’s Skate America behind training partner Wagner. Bell, 20, finished sixth at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea, where she competed with an amount of pressure she had never before felt.

Of skaters entered at worlds, Bell has the 10th-best total score this season. The skater with the 12th-best total in the worlds field is more than nine points shy of Bell. Chen comes in seeded 16th.

“The tough thing about this worlds is that we have two rookies going into a very stressful event,” Wagner said. “So these two girls are in a really tough position, and I really feel for them. It’s kind of like you have to buckle up and deal with this, and that’s like your only option.”

There is reason for optimism, should Wagner put up something close to the performance of her life from last year’s worlds, where she became the first U.S. women’s medalist in a decade.

“Success in Finland is getting onto that podium,” Wagner said.

But Wagner is nearing the end of her (so far) least impressive season in probably six years. She is seeded eighth at worlds by this season’s top international scores.

She failed to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2011. She was beaten at nationals despite longtime rival Gracie Gold underperforming.

However, Wagner’s goal at nationals wasn’t to win, but to finish in the top three to make the worlds team. She called the runner-up result “perfect.” She focused the last two months on firming up the areas where she lost points.

“Even though to some on the outside looking in, it wouldn’t look like it was the most successful season for me,” Wagner said. “I think at the end of the day this season has been exactly what I needed it to be.”

The favorite in Helsinki is clearly Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who hasn’t lost since November 2015 and can become the first repeat world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2001.

Wagner said she hasn’t watched any of Medvedeva’s programs this season.

“The only thing that I know about is her long program music is not my favorite piece of music,” Wagner said, alluding to Medvedeva’s choice of sound from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” a 2011 film relating to the 9/11 attacks. The music includes, at one point, the voice of George W. Bush declaring that two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center.

But Wagner was effusive of Medvedeva, the latest in a string of Russian Olympic and world champions dating to the Sochi Olympics.

“She is a set bar that everybody is chasing after, and I think in years past that bar was always changing,” Wagner said. “Now it’s one set thing I know exactly the quality of skating I have to reach, I know exactly the technical program that I have to be able to accomplish.”

Wagner, a seasoned 25 years old, noted a key point this week. She is the only active women’s skater in her class, with her length of experience, who hasn’t taken a break.

Italian Carolina Kostner is 30, but she’s competing at worlds for the first time since 2014, following two seasons off. Japan’s three-time world champion Mao Asada is 26, but she took a season off after Sochi and this year failed to make the worlds team.

Wagner reflected on her world silver medal and her three national championships. She knows they mean nothing next week.

“I have to prove myself all over again,” she said.

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NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

More Russians retroactively disqualified from 2012 Olympics

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MOSCOW (AP) — Three Russian athletes have been disqualified from the 2012 Olympics after failing doping retests, the country’s track and field federation said.

Hammer throwers Maria Bespalova and Gulfiya Khanafeeva and triple jumper Viktoria Valyukevich were all disqualified. None were medalists.

The disqualifications of Bespalova and Khanafeeva mean all three Russian women who competed in the hammer throw in 2012 have tested positive for doping. Tatyana Lysenko was the original winner, but was stripped of her gold medal in October.

Valyukevich, a former European indoor champion, was eighth in the triple jump at the 2012 Olympics and finished two places ahead of Russian teammate Tatyana Lebedeva, who has been stripped of two medals from the 2008 Beijing Games for doping.

In Tuesday’s statement, Russian officials didn’t say which substances were involved. The International Olympic Committee had no immediate comment.

It is the third time Khanafeeva, who won European championship silver in 2005, has been found guilty of a doping offense. She previously served bans in 2002 for a positive test and in 2008 for providing someone else’s urine in a drug test sample.

Bespalova is currently serving a four-year ban after testing positive for a banned steroid in 2015.

Since the IOC started retesting samples from the 2008 and 2012 Games last year, more than 30 Russians in various sports have tested positive. That makes them the largest group out of more than 100 positive tests. Seven more Russians have been disqualified for other doping offenses.

Russia has lost 26 Olympic medals as a result, most of them in track and field. Many of the cases involve turinabol, a substance which former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov has admitted supplying to athletes in a steroid cocktail.

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