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Danell Leyva: Olympic all-around was ‘unfair’

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U.S. gymnast Danell Leyva felt for Oleg Verniaiev after the Ukrainian finished a controversial second in the Rio Olympic all-around, .099 behind Japan’s Kohei Uchimura.

“What they did in the all-around was super unfair,” Leyva said on the Gymcastic podcast (10-minute mark). “I sincerely just feel like Oleg outperformed Uchimura in a couple of different events, in most events. We all know how political gymnastics is. I guess they were probably just like, yeah, we’ve got to give it to Uchi because it’s Uchi.”

Uchimura became the first gymnast to repeat as Olympic all-around champion in 44 years, adding to his collection that includes the last six world all-around titles.

Uchimura went into the sixth and final Olympic all-around rotation trailing Verniaiev by .901. They both went on high bar, one of Uchimura’s best events. Uchimura outscored Verniaiev by a full point to take the come-from-behind title.

Leyva did not do the all-around in Rio after taking bronze behind Uchimura in London. He criticized high bar scoring at the Rio Games, saying others did amazing routines and received low scores. But he was OK with it, because everybody was getting judged the same way (strictly).

Until Uchimura.

The Japanese fell on high bar in qualifying and scored a 14.3, among the bottom half of scores for the 24 men who made the all-around final. In the team final, Uchimura scored 15.166. In the all-around final, he scored 15.8, the best high bar score of the Games across qualifying and finals.

German Fabian Hambuechen won the high bar event final with a 15.766, while Leyva took silver with a 15.5.

“It’s like he’s in a different competition,” Leyva, who also took Rio parallel bars silver behind Verniaiev, said of Uchimura’s high bar scores. “Everybody is getting judged incredibly strict like that, OK, whatever. Then Uchi went, and his routine wasn’t that great, like it wasn’t perfect at all, and they gave him a near-perfect score. And it’s just like but no, because the other people.”

Verniaiev did not dispute the all-around results in the press conference after the event and was effusive of Uchimura, calling him a legend.

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Chinese lead, star pairs struggle in world championships short program

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China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong recorded the highest pairs short program score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, topping the world championships field in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Two-time defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada and Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are well behind in seventh and 13th place, respectively.

Sui and Han, in just their second event this season, tallied a personal-best 81.23 points.

They lead by 1.39 over Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot going into the free skate Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are in third.

The Chinese will go for their first world title after giving up a short-program lead last year and taking silver for a second straight time.

Full worlds short program results are here.

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Sui and Han missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at the Four Continents Championships in February and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

Duhamel and Radford, looking to become the first pair to three-peat in 40 years, came in slowed by Radford’s hip injury suffered in the last week. Radford was off-balance on his triple toe loop landing Wednesday. Duhamel’s hand touched the ice on her throw triple Lutz landing.

They scored 72.67 points, which is 8.56 behind Sui and Han.

Stolbova and Klimov both suffered falls in their short program and scored 65.59, qualifying for the 16-pair free skate by four points. The Russian champions missed the autumn season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury.

The top U.S. pair was Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, who posted a personal-best 72.17 points for eighth place. The husband-and-wife pair are competing for the second time this season after Scimeca Knierim’s serious abdominal injury.

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier suffered two falls and placed 20th, matching the worst U.S. pairs finish in worlds history. They did not qualify for the 16-pair free skate.

Therefore, the Knierims must finish 10th or better after the free skate to ensure the U.S. earns two pairs places at the 2018 Olympics.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. medal in pairs at worlds came in 2002. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

North Korean pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik placed 14th in the short program, the highest of any pair expected to compete for one of four final Olympic quota spots in September.

North Korea sent no athletes to the Sochi Olympics, and it’s not a guarantee it will qualify any athletes for PyeongChang, or if it will send athletes to South Korea in February. But Ryom and Kim’s personal best by nearly 11 points on Wednesday was very encouraging.

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Pairs Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 81.23
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 79.84
3. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 79.37
8. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 72.17
20. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 56.23

Missy Franklin out due to shoulder surgeries

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Missy Franklin is sidelined from swimming competition for an undisclosed period of time to recover from surgeries on both of her shoulders due to bursitis, according to her social media.

“This is what’s best for me to come stronger than ever,” was posted on Franklin’s Instagram. “I’m so far from being done with this sport.”

The five-time Olympic champion was diagnosed in early January following an MRI, underwent surgeries that month and has returned to limited training.

Franklin, who has not raced since the Rio Olympics, will not compete in the next USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., in two weeks.

Her return date is not set.

The U.S. Championships are in June in Indianapolis and serve as a qualifying meet for the world championships in Budapest in July.

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