Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir, despite trip, win world title in comeback season

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Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir capped an undefeated and record-breaking comeback season, winning their third world ice dance title and first since 2012 on Saturday.

Even with Moir tripping during their free dance, they totaled 198.62 points, the highest score of all time. They topped the two-time defending world champions, training partners Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, by 2.58 points.

“[Virtue] held my butt up today,” Moir said afterward.

Americans Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani took bronze, 13.44 points behind Virtue and Moir, the 2010 Olympic gold medalists and 2014 Olympic silver medalists.

The Shibutani siblings, silver medalists a year ago, moved up from fourth after the short dance. They snagged the lone U.S. medal in any event at worlds.

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Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue were in position for their first world medal going into the free dance, but Donohue fell during their twizzles. They dropped from third to ninth.

As for Virtue and Moir, they were saved by a 5.54-point lead from Friday’s short dance. Immediately before they took the ice Saturday, Papadakis and Cizeron posted the highest free dance score of all time, leaving crowd members in tears.

“It’s not a lot of fun to come out after Gabby and Guillaume,” Moir said.

After two years away from competition, Virtue and Moir completed an undefeated season in which they recorded the four highest total scores of all time in their last four international events. That made Moir’s trip during a step sequence so shocking, causing an audible crowd gasp as he put one hand down on the ice to keep from falling down completely.

The other U.S. couple, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, finished seventh after taking silver in 2015 and bronze in 2016.

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Ice Dance Results
Gold: Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir (CAN) — 198.62

Silver: Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 196.04
Bronze: Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 185.18
7. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 182.04
9. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA) — 177.70

U.S., Great Britain to hold track and field dual meet

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The U.S. and Great Britain go head-to-head in a track and field meet on July 21 at the London Olympic Stadium.

“The Meet” will include nine running, jumping, hurdles and relay events and last two hours. Specific events and athletes will be announced early next year.

The U.S. topped the overall medal standings at every Olympics and world outdoor championships since 2004.

Great Britain is one of three countries to earn at least five medals at every Olympics and worlds since 2007, joining the U.S. and Kenya.

British athletes made six podiums at the just-completed worlds at the London Olympic Stadium, including in all four relays. The other two medals came from Mo Farah, who is moving to road racing and marathons after this season.

“The Meet” is similar to swimming’s “Duel in the Pool,” a biennial head-to-head competition between the U.S. and rival Australia from 2003 through 2007 and between the U.S. and Europe between 2009 and 2015.

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Five women’s gymnasts to watch at P&G Championships

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As Rio gold medalists decide on their futures, this week’s P&G Championships mark the first showcase for a new class of U.S. women’s gymnasts.

For the first time since 2008, nobody in the nationals field in Anaheim has competed at an Olympics. Usually, a gymnast or two carries over into the post-Olympic year, like Bridget Sloan in 2009 and Kyla Ross in 2013.

But this year, the feeling is akin to 2005, when no woman (or man) from the 2004 Athens Games chalked up at nationals.

Back then, a 15-year-old Nastia Liukin, who had already starred in a commercial during the 2004 Olympics, made her senior nationals debut and won the all-around. Three years later, Liukin won the Olympic all-around in Beijing.

There will be talk this week of finding the next Liukin, or Gabby Douglas, or Simone Biles, who, like Liukin, won her senior nationals debut the year after the Olympics.

“Some of them [from Rio], hopefully Simone, will be coming back, but I think this is a great opportunity for some of these girls to go out there and prove that they’re just as ready to compete at a world championships,” said Liukin, now an NBC Olympics analyst. “They have to step up a little bit and kind of become the leaders.”

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Gymnasts this week are vying to impress new U.S. national team coordinator Valeri Liukin (Nastia’s father). The four-woman roster for October’s worlds, where there is no team event, will be named after a selection camp later this summer.

Five gymnasts to watch at the P&G Championships:

Ragan Smith
Rio Olympic alternate
2017 AT&T American Cup champion

The Texan performed admirably in her first senior season in 2016, placing fifth in the all-around at the Olympic Trials. Her best events are balance beam and floor exercise, but the U.S. needed uneven bars help in Rio. So she went to the Games as an alternate at age 15, making headlines for this photo with 6-foot-11 basketball player DeAndre Jordan.

Smith, coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal, emerged this year as the U.S.’ most reliable all-arounder and clear favorite this week. She won the American Cup on March 4 despite a beam fall. A definite all-around medal favorite at October’s worlds.

Ashton Locklear
Rio Olympic alternate
2014 World team champion

Locklear was beaten for the Olympic team bars specialist spot by Madison Kocian after nearly matching Kocian in scores in four routines between last year’s P&G Championships and Olympic Trials. The 19-year-old is not considered an all-around threat this week but is favored to make the world team based on her bars ability. She was fourth in the event at 2014 Worlds.

Riley McCusker
2017 Jesolo Trophy all-around winner

McCusker, who has the same coach as Laurie Hernandez, struggled at the American Cup in her first senior competition, falling on bars and beam. She rebounded to win Jesolo a month later and remain in the mix as the No. 2 U.S. all-arounder (Smith wasn’t at Jesolo).

However, McCusker was on crutches with a cast on her wrist in early July and said she expected to be back to peak form in September, not August.

Morgan Hurd
2017 Stuttgart World Cup bronze medalist

Hurd, a first-year senior who competes in glasses, was adopted from China as a toddler and now lives with her mom in Delaware.

Liukin, asked to name gymnasts to watch this week, started with Hurd, whom she says has the highest floor exercise start value in the world. “She could be capable of winning a world all-around medal and possibly become a world champion on floor,” Liukin said.

Jade Carey
2017 U.S. Classic vault winner

The U.S. has a tradition of sending a vault specialist to worlds, but neither of the top vaulters from the last Olympic cycle — Biles nor MyKayla Skinner — is competing this week. Enter Carey, a 17-year-old who wasn’t an elite gymnast before this season.

Carey performed the difficult Amanar vault at July’s U.S. Classic, where she was the only gymnast to perform two vaults, which is required to compete for medals on the event at worlds.

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