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Kohei Uchimura pulls out of world all-around, record streak ends

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MONTREAL — Kohei Uchimura‘s eight-year streak as world’s best gymnast came to an end Monday.

Uchimura pulled out of the world championships all-around qualification with a left ankle injury after three of six events at the 1976 Olympic Stadium.

He was given crutches to get around the arena, watching his countrymen finish the night.

“I feel very sorry for the people who came to support me,” Uchimura said, according to a translator. “I apologize to my teammates.”

The Japanese megastar won the last six world all-around titles and the last two Olympic all-around titles, the longest streak of dominance in gymnastics history.

Uchimura limped badly after his second event in qualifying, vault (video here).

Uchimura said he initially felt so much pain in his left leg that he thought of French gymnast Samir Aït Saïd, who broke his left leg on a gruesome vault landing in Rio. Aït Saïd was in the same qualifying session as Uchimura on Monday.

“After the vault, I couldn’t even walk,” Uchimura said. “I just wanted to keep trying to finish the competition.”

Uchimura moved to parallel bars. He landed his dismount awkwardly, keeping pressure off that left leg.

He then warmed up for his fourth event, high bar, but landed on his back rather than his legs and then hobbled off the competition floor. He decided not to go through with his full routine.

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A team official said later that Uchimura had dealt with left ankle pain since the 2015 World Championships, but he looked fine leading into these worlds.

After Uchimura suffered the injury on his vault, the official told Uchimura to play it safe with the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in mind.

Uchimura won every world all-around title in the last two Olympic cycles, plus the Olympic golds in 2012 and 2016. He became the first gymnast to repeat as Olympic all-around champion since countryman Sawao Kato in 1972.

Uchimura, 28, could have become the oldest Olympic or world all-around champion in at least 50 years this week.

Instead, the favorites are now Olympic silver medalist Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine and 2015 World silver medalist Manrique Larduet of Cuba.

Larduet had the top qualifying score through the first three of four qualifying sessions. U.S. champion Yul Moldauer had the seventh-best score with some gymnasts still to qualify Tuesday morning.

The all-around final is Thursday.

Uchimura’s days as an all-around gymnast are numbered. He said before the Rio Olympics that he may limit his focus to one or two events for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

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Olympic ski cross champion suffers serious knee injury

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Canadian Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic and World Cup ski cross champion, ruptured an ACL and MCL in a training crash in Switzerland.

Alpine Canada did not say when the accident happened or what Thompson’s chances are of returning to defend her Olympic title in PyeongChang.

Thompson flew from Switzerland to Vancouver for an MRI that confirmed the injury.

“I’ll be making a plan with my team moving forward and when the time is right getting back on the ski cross course stronger than ever,” Thompson said in a press release.

Thompson, 25, tore a meniscus in January 2015 and returned to competition 11 months later. She won seven of the 13 World Cup races last season.

Other Olympic medal contenders include Swede Sandra Näslund and Swiss Fanny Smith.

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Nathan Chen leads Yuzuru Hanyu at Grand Prix opener (video)

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen hopes to become comfortable in this spot this season — ahead of reigning Olympic and world champion Yuzuru Hanyu in the standings.

The 18-year-old Chen landed two quadruple jumps in his short program at the opening Grand Prix event in Moscow, taking a 5.69-point lead over Hanyu going into Saturday’s free skate.

Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva of Russia topped the women’s short program with 80.75 points (one tenth off her world record).

Full Rostelecom Cup results are here.

Chen’s tally — 100.54 points — is the second-highest short of his flourishing international career. It would have been higher if not for two of his three jumping passes receiving negative grades of execution for wonky landings.

The Japanese megastar Hanyu fell on his final jump, a triple toe loop, on Friday. No matter, Winnie the Pooh bears rained down on the ice from the adoring crowd, many of whom traveled from Japan.

Hanyu scored 94.85 points, one month after breaking his world record short program score with 112.72 points in a small event in Canada.

“Today I made some mistakes in my short program, but overall it didn’t feel bad,” Hanyu said, according to the International Skating Union.

Hanyu, though he is the current PyeongChang favorite, has never won his season-opening Grand Prix event in seven tries.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu, who is four years older, in four of their last eight head-to-head skates.

Hanyu was better in the two biggest programs at last season’s world championships. Chen placed sixth at worlds in April, perhaps gassed at the end of his first senior season while competing on duct-taped skates.

In the women’s standings, Medvedeva topped Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy by 6.13 points.

American Mirai Nagasu landed a triple Axel that was called under rotated and fell on her other two jumping passes. She ended up ninth, two spots behind U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell.

In the short dance, two-time world medalists and U.S. champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani tallied 77.30 points.

The siblings lead by .97 over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev going into the free dance.

Russians are one-two in pairs. World bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov by 5.49.

All of the free skates are Saturday, live on Olympic Channel. A full schedule is here.

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Rostelecom Cup
Men’s Short
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 100.54
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 94.85
3. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.77
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 67.56

Women’s Short
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 80.75
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 74.64
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 69.60
7. Mariah Bell (USA) — 63.85
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 56.15

Short Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 77.30
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 76.33
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 71.32
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 59.41

Pairs Short
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.88
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 71.39
3. Valentina Marchei/Ondřej Hotárek (ITA) — 68.48
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 54.37