In Kohei Uchimura’s absence, a breakthrough world all-around champ

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In the absence of the King, China’s Xiao Ruoteng rose to win his first world championships all-around medal — gold in Montreal on Thursday night.

Xiao, a 21-year-old who was not on China’s Olympic team, came from nearly six tenths behind in the final rotation to overtake Russian David Belyavskiy for the title.

Belyavskiy opened the door by falling on his last routine on high bar, dropping to fourth place, just where he finished in Rio.

The 25-year-old also placed sixth at the 2011 Worlds, fifth at the 2012 Olympics and fifth at the 2014 Worlds. He has never won an Olympic or world all-around medal.

“I only thought of doing the [high bar] exercise from A to Z, without any faults, without the fall, but it happened,” Belyavskiy told media in Montreal. “Maybe I’m just lacking some luck.”

Xiao tallied 86.933 points to become the first Chinese gymnast to take gold since Yang Wei at the 2008 Olympics.

China actually went one-two at the 1976 Olympic Stadium, with Lin Chaopan taking silver with 86.448. Japan’s Kenzo Shirai edged Belyavskiy for bronze.

China redeemed after its worst-ever Olympic men’s gymnastics medal output in Rio — a lone bronze in the team event.

Uchimura, who won every Olympic and world title from 2009 through 2016, withdrew with a left ankle injury in qualifying on Monday. Xiao refused to speculate what would have happened Thursday if Uchimura was in the final.

“Gymnastics is something that you compete with yourself, not against each other,” he said. “So it’s more about doing my best, not considering other competitors.”

Shirai, a 21-year-old roommate of Uchimura, did speculate.

“I feel that if Uchimura was competing today, I would be fourth place,” said Shirai, who was competing in his first major international all-around competition. Before this year, Shirai was a floor exercise and vault specialist — arguably best in the world on both events.

U.S. champion Yul Moldauer was seventh in the 24-man field, competing in his first world championships.

“I hit six for six [routines], and I couldn’t have asked for a better meet,” said Moldauer, a rising University of Oklahoma junior formerly coached by 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Sasha Artemev. “I just need to start building my reputation. … Hopefully, next year, I can be in the top three.”

No American man has earned a world all-around medal since Jonathan Horton‘s bronze in 2010.

Favorite Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine fell off both pommel horse and high bar, finishing eighth.

Verniaiev took silver in Rio, just .099 behind Uchimura.

Worlds continue with the women’s all-around final on Friday at 7 p.m. ET, live on The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on Olympicchannel.com and the Olympic Channel app.

The men return for apparatus finals on Saturday and Sunday, including Moldauer on floor exercise.

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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