Kyla Ross

Kyla Ross leads all-around qualifying at World Gymnastics Championships

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Olympic gold medalist Kyla Ross is off to a strong start in her first major international all-around competition, leading after the first day of qualification at the World Championships. Still, she’s not assured of advancing to Friday’s all-around final.

Ross scored a combined 59.198 over four events in Antwerp, Belgium, on Tuesday, more than one point better than second-place Yao Jinnan of China. Her biggest threats in the all-around will go through qualifying Wednesday — including Americans Simone Biles and McKayla Maroney and Russian Aliya Mustafina.

Competition continues at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time. U.S. all-around champion Biles will lead off at 7:30, and Olympic champion Maroney will go at 10. The women’s all-around final is Friday at 2 p.m.

World Gymnastics Championships broadcast schedule

One nation can qualify a maximum of two athletes into individual finals, meaning one of Ross, Biles and Maroney will not compete for all-around medals, even if they finish one-two-three in qualifying. This is the same rule that kept 2011 world all-around champion Jordyn Wieber out of the Olympic all-around final.

Ross said she “proved herself” in qualification after being the only member of the Fierce Five to not qualify for an individual final at the Olympics.

“(In) London, I was just there for the team, and we did such an amazing job,” Ross said. “After that, I just went back into the gym and worked for myself.”

The U.S. has gone one-two in the women’s all-around at the last two World Championships in years following the Olympics. Chellsie Memmel beat Nastia Liukin by .001 in 2005, and Bridget Sloan overtook Rebecca Bross for gold in 2009 after Bross fell on her final routine, floor exercise.

Ross was also competing to qualify for individual event finals, where the top eight advance after everybody finishes Wednesday. Ross placed first on the balance beam, second on uneven bars and second on floor. If Biles and Maroney score better than Ross, they will knock her out of those event finals via the two-per-country rule.

Aly Raisman back in training

Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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