Morgan Hurd

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World Gymnastics Championships takeaways

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Three takeaways from the world gymnastics championships in Montreal …

1. Morgan Hurd jumbles U.S. women’s team picture

Hurd was fifth at the 2016 junior nationals and sixth at this year’s senior nationals. Now that the 16-year-old is world all-around champion, where will she stand domestically in 2018? 2020?

Remember, all the focus this year was on Olympic alternate Ragan Smith until Smith injured an ankle in warm-up for the all-around final and withdrew. Smith’s all-around score in qualifying (where she was second overall) would have won gold by seven tenths of a point.

Before worlds, she swept the AT&T American Cup and P&G Championships titles, both quite convincingly. Though Hurd did beat Smith in the U.S. selection camp’s closed-door competition in September to earn a place on the world team.

OK, so Hurd vs. Smith in 2018? It’s not looking that simple.

The second- and third-highest scorers at the P&G Championships came from the junior division. Maile O’Keefe and Emma Malabuyo both move up to senior next year.

As for 2020, Simone BilesAly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez have all said they hope to come back at some point in this Olympic cycle. Only Biles has returned to the gym, but no competition return dates have been set.

Team sizes will be cut from five to four for the Olympics (though two extra gymnasts can compete in individual events).

Also consider the high injury risk.

Chellsie Memmel (2005) and Bridget Sloan (2009) both won world titles the year after an Olympics and then struggled to stay healthy the rest of the quad. Memmel made the 2008 Olympic team, but only competed on uneven bars due to a broken ankle. Sloan withdrew from the 20102 Olympic Trials with an elbow injury.

Two others who won world all-around medals the year after the Olympics — Rebecca Bross (2009, silver) and Kyla Ross (2013, silver) — both did not make it back for the Games three years later.

So, Hurd has a long, tough road ahead for somebody who became the world’s best gymnast in her first year in the senior division.

2. U.S. men have one all-arounder; they need more

National champion Yul Moldauer did well for himself at his first worlds, finishing seventh in the all-around. He did so with a full point fewer in difficulty than anybody else in the top eight.

He’ll go back to Oklahoma for his junior season and presumably continue to improve, adding tougher skills to challenge the Chinese and Japanese.

If the U.S. men are to become Olympic team medal threats again, they need another all-arounder given the roster cut to four.

Will it be Sam Mikulak? The four-time U.S. champion has never been a bigger question mark since he burst onto the scene to make the 2012 Olympic team.

He looked just as promising as Moldauer in 2013, when Mikulak would have won a world all-around medal if not for falling on his last event, high bar. The last four years brought plenty of domestic success, but more Achilles tears (two) than individual international medals (zero).

Mikulak was put on the world team for high bar only and fell in qualifying. He said afterward he will go back to the all-around next year, but as he turns 25 years old, time is not on his side.

3. The international picture isn’t clear, either

The medalists at next year’s worlds in Doha could be very different.

Not only is the U.S. women’s program set for changes, but some of the world’s best gymnasts weren’t able to compete for medals in Montreal.

Romanian Larisa Iordache, a two-time world all-around medalist behind Biles, suffered an Achilles injury in qualifying. Russian Aliya Mustafina, all-around bronze medalist in Rio behind Biles and Raisman, took the year off due to pregnancy but is expected to return in 2018.

There is uncertainty at the top of men’s gymnastics for the first time in eight years.

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, the world’s top all-arounder from 2009 through 2016, also bowed out in qualifying due to injury. Combine that with Uchimura’s close win in Rio — by .099 over Ukrainian Oleg Verniaiev — and he will have a little bit to prove in 2018.

New world champion Xiao Ruoteng of China is seven years younger than Uchimura, who at 28 is past peak age for an all-arounder. Uchimura may trim his focus from the all-around to one or two events ahead of the Tokyo Games.

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VIDEO: Simone Biles explains returning to the gym

Morgan Hurd, new world all-around champ, bonds with J.K. Rowling

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U.S. gymnast Morgan Hurd‘s two highlights from the past week:

“Clearly winning,” said the surprise world all-around champion, ” … and clearly getting the tweet from J.K.”

Hurd, the 4 1/2-foot, 16-year-old who competes in glasses, was clearly the standout performer of last week’s world gymnastics championships in Montreal.

Fifth at the U.S. junior championships a year ago — and sixth at this year’s senior nationals (coming off elbow surgery) — Hurd surged to win the most coveted prize in the sport aside from the Olympics.

Word reached Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, who has clearly had an effect on Hurd.

Then came Saturday and Sunday.

Teammate Jade Carey captured Hurd’s reaction to the first congratulatory tweet. Hurd was lying down, receiving treatment ahead of Sunday’s balance beam final.

“I stopped and started bawling,” Hurd said later. “I had tears streaming down my face.”

Hurd had trouble sleeping the last several nights, acknowledging lament in not being able to thank every single person who praised her on social media.

She awoke Sunday to see the second tweet from Rowling call her a hero.

“I started freaking out, but I had to be really quiet because [teammate] Ragan [Smith] was still sleeping,” Hurd said. “I was, like, jumping up and down in my bed.”

Hurd’s love for Rowling’s series about the boy wizard is compounded by the fact she is a rare gymnast who competes while wearing glasses. Very Potter-like.

“I tried contacts,” she said, according to FloGymnastics in May, “but they made my eyeballs dry, and when I got stuff in my eyes, I had to take them out and put them back in.”

Hurd is not the first elite gymnast to go the glasses route. Remember Fabian Hambuechen in Athens?

Hurd was born in China and adopted as a toddler, moving to Delaware. By developmental camps, she acted and looked like an adult, said her coach, Slava Glazounov.

“She would get herself a little cappucino, without the caffeine,” he said Sunday. “She would sit with her leg up and drink the coffee and read the book. And this was a 10-year-old kid. She does the same thing now.”

Hurd, who was born between “The Goblet of Fire” and “The Order of the Phoenix,” has twice taken the Pottermore quiz to determine her Hogwarts House.

Questions include — moon or stars? And would you rather be envied, imitated, trusted, praised, liked or feared?

Hurd was sorted into Ravenclaw — known for intelligence — and then, the second time, Gryffindor — marked by courage and bravery.

“I truly think I’m a Gryffindor because, I mean, I flip on a four-inch piece of wood,” said Hurd, who earned silver in Sunday’s balance beam final. “That’s got to count for something, right?”

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MORE: Romania’s last golden gymnast says goodbye

Morgan Hurd wins shock world all-around title

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Morgan Hurd was the U.S.’ only hope. She was up to the task.

The 16-year-old in glasses won the U.S.’ seventh straight Olympic or world all-around title in Montreal on Friday night.

She followed the likes of Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles.

Hurd did so after U.S. champion Ragan Smith withdrew minutes before the competition with an ankle injury.

Hurd did so after finishing sixth at the P&G Championships in August and sneaking onto the four-woman world team at a September selection camp.

Hurd did so after going into the final rotation, floor exercise, two tenths of a point behind Canadian Ellie Black. Black, fifth in Rio, was the overwhelming crowd favorite at the 1976 Olympic Stadium.

Hurd edged Black by one tenth of a point overall. Russia’s Elena Eremina took bronze in a competition that lacked the top four finishers from Rio.

“I was just so honored to be even picked for the worlds team,” said Hurd, who hit her four routines solidly save a minor uneven bars error and some balance beam wobbles. “It honestly just felt like the best floor routine I’ve ever done.”

HURD VIDEOS: Beam | Floor | Uneven Bars | Vault

The highlight of the night may have been the medal ceremony. Hurd received her gold medal from Nadia Comaneci, the 1976 Olympic all-around champion in Montreal.

“In third grade I was actually [Comaneci] for a school project,” Hurd said. “I went and dressed as her.”

Every member of the Final Five — including Olympic all-around gold and silver medalists Biles and Aly Raisman — is sitting out this season.

Biles and Raisman have said they plan to come back with eyes on Tokyo 2020. (When she was 13, Hurd woke up before dawn to live blog Biles’ performance at the 2014 World Championships in China.)

Friday’s final also missed the two favorites going into the week — the Olympic alternate Smith and Romanian Larisa Iordache.

Smith left on crutches after injuring herself warming up for her first event — vault (video here).

She was taken for X-Rays, according to USA Gymnastics. Smith’s score in qualifying, a 55.932 with a balance beam fall, was seven tenths better than Hurd’s total Friday.

Iordache, a two-time world all-around medalist, tore an Achilles warming up for floor exercise before qualification on Wednesday.

Hurd, adopted from China as a toddler and living in Delaware, is the youngest Olympic or world all-around champion since Aliya Mustafina in 2010.

She repeated Biles’ feat of winning the world all-around title in her first year as a senior gymnast, the year after the Olympics.

Hurd had the added hurdle of coming back from spring elbow surgery, too.

Black, who had never before won an Olympic or world medal, became the first Canadian male or female gymnast to win an Olympic or world all-around medal of any color.

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