Yul Moldauer

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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

U.S. adds 2 medals at gymnastics worlds; 42-year-old finishes 5th

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Two rookies added medals for the U.S. at the world gymnastics championships in Montreal on Saturday.

Jade Carey, who was not an elite-level gymnast a year ago, earned silver on vault. Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina, a 42-year-old who has competed at a record seven Olympics, finished fifth, missing a medal by one tenth of a point.

All five gold medalists on Saturday were repeat champions from two years ago — Russian Maria Paseka (vault), Japanese Kenzo Shirai (floor exercise), Chinese Fan Yilin (uneven bars), Brit Max Whitlock (pommel horse) and Greek Eleftherios Petrounias (still rings).

The U.S. men wrapped up their worlds with one medal — Yul Moldauer‘s bronze on floor — their lightest medal haul since 2010.

Frenchman Samir Aït Saïd, who horrifically broke his left leg in Rio, missed his first world medal by .008 on rings.

Worlds conclude Sunday with five more apparatus finals (broadcast schedule here). All-around champion Morgan Hurd goes on balance beam and Carey on floor exercise.

No American men qualified for Sunday’s high bar, parallel bars or vault finals.

Women’s Vault
GOLD: Maria Paseka (RUS) — 14.85
SILVER: Jade Carey (USA) — 14.766
BRONZE: Giulia Steingruber (SUI) — 14.466
4. Ellie Black (CAN) — 14.416
5. Oksana Chusovitina (UZB) — 14.366
6. Wang Yan (CHN) — 14.35
7. Shallon Olsen (CAN) — 14.233
8. Sae Miyakawa (JPN) — 13.8

The top three went unchanged from qualifying to final. Paseka is now a repeat world champion after bagging vault silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics. Carey beat Paseka on execution but was behind on difficulty.

Chusovitina, who was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in May, came close to earning her 11th career Olympic or world vault medal and first since 2011.

Men’s Floor Exercise
GOLD: Kenzo Shirai (JPN) — 15.633
SILVER: Artem Dolgopyat (ISR) — 14.533
BRONZE: Yul Moldauer (USA) — 14.5
4. Bram Verhofstad (NED) — 14.333
5. Tomas Gonzalez (CHI) — 14.266
6. Donnell Whittenburg (USA) — 14.166
7. Manrique Larduet (CUB) — 14.1
8. Kim Hansol (KOR) — 14.1
9. Milad Karimi (KAZ) — 13.266

Shirai, the 21-year-old known as the “Twist Prince” for his unmatched aerial moves, became the first man to repeat as world champion on floor since Russian Alexei Nemov in 1999. He finished his routine with his signature move, a quad twist. Shirai, now with three world titles on floor, was shockingly fourth in Rio. None of the Rio medalists were in Saturday’s final.

Moldauer, the 21-year-old U.S. all-around champion, earned a medal at his first worlds with the highest execution score and lowest difficulty. Whittenburg, the Olympic alternate built like a linebacker, struggled with the landings of his first two tumbling passes.

Uneven Bars
GOLD: Fan Yilin (CHN) — 15.166
SILVER: Elena Eremina (RUS) — 15.1
BRONZE: Nina Derwael (BEL) — 15.033
4. Anastasiya Iliyankova (RUS) — 14.9
5. Elisabeth Seitz (GER) — 14.766
6. Diana Varinska (UKR) — 14.583
7. Luo Huan (CHN) — 14.566
8. Ashton Locklear (USA) — 12.766

Fan was the only returning woman from a four-way tie for gold at the 2015 Worlds. Also missing were all three Olympic medalists — Aliya MustafinaMadison Kocian and Sophie Scheder.

Locklear, who battled Kocian for an Olympic spot last year, tearfully came off the high bar. She is the only member of the four-woman U.S. team with worlds experience, having finished fourth on bars in 2014.

Pommel Horse
GOLD: Max Whitlock (GBR) — 15.441

SILVER: David Belyavskiy (RUS) — 15.1
BRONZE: Xiao Ruoteng (CHN) — 15.066
4. Alex Naddour (USA) — 14.75
5. Harutyun Merdinyan (ARM) — 14.7
6. Weng Hao (CHN) — 14.5
7. Oleg Verniaiev (UKR) — 13.7
8. Saso Bertoncelj (SLO) — 12.966

Whitlock, Britain’s only Olympic gymnastics champion, followed his 2015 World and 2016 Olympic gold medals with another title. Whitlock, also the Olympic all-around bronze medalist, has given up competing on all six events to focus on pommels and floor exercise to prolong his career another two Olympics.

The Olympic bronze medalist Naddour hoped to challenge for gold, but he was short on his scissors to handstand. The last American man to earn a world pommel horse medal was Sasha Artemev in 2006 (bronze).

Still Rings
GOLD: Eleftherios Petrounias (GRE) — 15.433

SILVER: Denis Ablyazin (RUS) — 15.333
BRONZE: Liu Yang (CHN) — 15.266

4. Samir Aït Saïd (FRA) — 15.258
5. Ibrahim Colak (TUR) — 15.066
6. Igor Radivilov (UKR) — 14.933
7. Arthur Zanetti (BRA) — 14.9
8. Courtney Tulloch (GBR) — 14.533

Aït Saïd is the story here. Fourteen months after that awful Rio vault qualification injury, the Frenchman was in medal position until Liu knocked him out by .008 on the last routine.

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WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule | ScoresWomen to Watch | Men to Watch

Five male gymnasts to watch at world championships

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Male gymnasts to watch at the world championships, which begin with qualifying Monday, followed by the all-around final Thursday and apparatus finals on Saturday and Sunday in Montreal (no team event) … 

Kohei Uchimura, Japan
Olympic All-Around Gold: 2012, 2016
World All-Around Gold: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015

Best in the world for eight straight years. Few athletes in any sport have that kind of streak going. Uchimura has shown it all since earning all-around silver at his Olympic debut in 2008. The Nagasaki native can utterly dominate, come from behind, recover from falls, lead a team and win titles on three of the six individual events as well.

But Uchimura’s streak nearly ended in Rio. He needed an incredible final routine — the top high bar score of the entire Olympics — to edge Ukrainian Oleg Verniaiev by .099 of a point. Uchimura also failed to earn an apparatus medal at an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2009. His dominance is in question now more than ever.

Oleg Verniaiev, Ukraine
Olympic All-Around Silver Medalist
Olympic, World Parallel Bars Champion

Back to challenge Uchimura. Verniaiev, who turns 24 this week (Uchimura is 28), showed admirable sportsmanship after the controversially scored high bar rotation in Rio, calling Uchimura the Michael Phelps of gymnastics in the post-event press conference.

Verniaiev swept the all-around at the European Championships and World University Games already this year. So he should be ready. He might also be the busiest gymnast in Montreal next weekend. He was the only gymnast to qualify for four apparatus finals at the Olympics.

MORE: World Champs broadcast schedule | Female gymnasts to watch

Max Whitlock, Great Britain
Olympic All-Around Bronze Medalist
Olympic Floor Exercise, Pommel Horse Champion

The only man other than Uchimura to finish in the top five of the all-around at every worlds and the Olympics in the last cycle. But Whitlock, 24, won’t be doing the all-around in Montreal, choosing to focus on floor and horse. He hopes the lighter workload can extend his career another two Olympics. Watch for him in the weekend apparatus finals.

Kenzo Shirai, Japan
Olympic Bronze Medalist, Vault
World Champion, Floor Exercise

The “Twist Prince” rewrote the history books in the last Olympic cycle, introducing multiple skills on floor and vault that were named after him. Now 21, Shirai has grown into an all-around threat, taking second behind Uchimura at a Japanese competition in May and outscoring 2014 World all-around bronze medalist Yusuke Tanaka. Uchimura was joined by a countryman on the all-around podium at three of the last four worlds, but there’s no guarantee that Japan chooses to have two men do the all-around this year.

Yul Moldauer, U.S.
P&G Championships All-Around Champion
AT&T American Cup Champion

Moldauer, a rising University of Oklahoma junior, actually beat Verniaiev at the American Cup in Newark, N.J., on March 4 in his first top-level international meet. The 5-foot-3 gymnast has the international artistic “look,” NBC Olympics analyst Tim Daggett said. While he’s clean, Moldauer might lack the difficulty to contend in the all-around this year. The U.S. hasn’t put a man on the world all-around podium since Jonathan Horton‘s bronze in 2010.

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MORE: U.S. names women’s gymnastics team for world champs