McKayla Maroney

Simone Biles, Kyla Ross qualify for World Championships all-around over McKayla Maroney

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Gymnastics’ two-per-country rule left Jordyn Wieber in tears at the London Olympics. The rule took McKayla Maroney out of the World Championships all-around Wednesday.

Maroney, the not-impressed Fierce Five member, competed in the all-around at a major international meet for the first time at worlds in Antwerp, Belgium, in qualifying. Two other U.S. gymnasts, Simone Biles and Kyla Ross, also entered the all-around.

The top 24 women from qualifying, no more than two per country, advanced to Friday’s final. Going in, everyone knew only two of Maroney, Biles and Ross would advance, even if they qualified one-two-three.

Biles and Ross were the top two qualifiers when everybody finished Wednesday, scoring 60.133 and 59.198 points, respectively. Maroney was sixth (57.149) and therefore the highest-scoring woman who will not get a chance to compete for all-around medals. In 2012, Wieber was fourth in qualifying, behind Aly Raisman (second) and Gabby Douglas (third).

“I’ve came a long away, so I’m really happy with what I’ve accomplished,” Maroney said in a video interview posted by USA Gymnastics. “I’m proud of myself at the end of the day.”

The World Championships in the year after the Olympics do not include a team event. The all-around final is Friday at 2 p.m. Eastern time, and the individual event finals are Saturday and Sunday. The men’s all-around final is Thursday.

World Gymnastics Championships broadcast schedule

The U.S. all-around champion Biles, 16, became the first U.S. woman since Shannon Miller in 1991 to qualify for all four event finals at the World Championships.

In addition to being No. 1 in the all-around, she qualified first on floor exercise (15.033), second on vault (15.55), fifth on balance beam (14.4) and sixth on uneven bars (14.8). The top eight (again, maximum two per country) make the event finals.

“I think (U.S. national team coordinator) Martha Karolyi makes me more nervous than the judges sometimes,” Biles said.

Ross, the youngest member of the 2012 Olympic champion team, qualified second into the uneven bars final (15.133), third into the balance beam final (14.566) and sixth into the floor final (14.333). She went through qualification Tuesday, a day before Biles and Maroney.

“Everything went pretty well,” Ross said Tuesday. “I know I was going to be the first for the Americans. so I just wanted to have a good and strong start and lead everyone off.”

Maroney was the top qualifier on vault, where she is the defending world champion and Olympic silver medalist. She scored a 15.641 in qualifying. That will be her only worlds final, on Saturday.

“I am here right now because at the Olympics I didn’t get to defend that (vault) title,” said Maroney, who fractured a tibia in the post-Olympic gymnastics tour in September. “That was the main reason I had all that motivation to come back and get my butt over here today.”

Biles and Ross put a dent into Russian Aliya Mustafina‘s favorite status in the all-around. Mustafina, the 2010 world all-around champion, qualified fifth into Friday’s final with 57.165 points. She fell on floor and vault and wobbled on beam.

There’s a chance the U.S. could go one-two in the World Championships all-around in the year after the Olympics for the third straight time, following Chellsie Memmel and Nastia Liukin in 2005 and Bridget Sloan and Rebecca Bross in 2009.

USA Boxing president slams Mike Tyson in open letter

Chock, Bates charge to second U.S. title; Hubbell, Donohue charge the wrong way

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue
AP
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Evan Bates, who had just won his second U.S. ice dance title with partner Madison Chock, put it best.

“Ice dance is a strange sport in some ways,” he said.

Chock and Bates have had their share of unusual mishaps in their near 10-year career, but on Saturday night at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, everything was smooth sailing.

The couple’s exotic “Egyptian Snake Dance” free dance went off without a hitch, gaining the highest possible levels for nearly all of its elements and impressing judges with its intricacy, synchronization and striking lifts. It earned 134.23 points, giving the Montreal-based team the win with 221.86.

“It was (our coach Marie-France Dubreuil’s) idea for me to be a snake, and Evan a traveler who finds me,” Chock said of the routine. “It was just such a fun process, cool new characters for us to dive into, and we’ve really been enjoying it. It shows when we skate.”

Greensboro has been lucky for the skaters, who teamed up in 2011; they won their first U.S. title here in 2015. The five-year title gap is the longest in history for U.S. ice dance champions.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said with a breezy laugh. “It feels so much has changed, and in us as people as well (as dancers). We’re in a very good place, we could not be happier with the way the season has been going.”

If Chock’s humor was lighthearted, Madison Hubbell’s can only be described grim.

Hubbell and her partner, Zach Donohue, trailed their long-time rivals and Montreal training partners by about 1.3 points following Friday’s rhythm dance. A stellar outing of their Star is Born free dance might have won a third consecutive U.S. title; instead, it became a living nightmare.

“Out of the first element, the dance spin, we got turned around somehow and came out the wrong direction,” Hubbell said. “The next four elements, which are pretty valuable elements, all were facing the wrong direction.”

(Video available here for NBC Sports Gold subscribers; Hubbell and Donohue skate at the 1:06:50 mark.)

Not until their fifth element, a step sequence, did the skaters get back on track. In between, there was a world of hurt, likely unnoticed by many members of the audience but readily apparent to the judges, who had seen the free dance in  practice.

“Our twizzle sequence, it’s a high-scoring element, is supposed to charge right at the judges, and today it charged away from them,” Hubbell said. “In the rotational life, there’s a large leg flare that looks very cool going the opposite direction, and today I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

The score was far from disastrous; Hubbell and Donohue’s 130.88 points for their “wrong-way” free dance gave them 217.19 overall. But it was a missed opportunity to show judges, and fans, the improvements they had made to A Star Is Born since the Grand Prix Final in December.

“It was probably one of the hardest performances, and not the most enjoyable,” Hubbell said. “It was a really thoughtful focus on the elements, and somehow putting one portion of the brain aside to fix things as best we could.”

The silver medal was Hubbell and Donohue’s first. They also won bronze medals in 2012, and 2015-17.

Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, whose rhythm dance to Saturday Night Fever stole the show on Friday, felt their Flamenco-style free dance didn’t pack the same punch.

“Yesterday was such a high for us, in terms of (audience) reaction and performance, that tonight didn’t have the same euphoria when we finished,” Hawayek said. “Both Jean-Luc and I see the potential for it being much higher than what we were able to put out today.”

Despite the disappointment, the third team in the Montreal troika earned 118.57 points and won a second consecutive bronze medal with 201.16.

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As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Coco Gauff eliminated from Australian Open by Sofia Kenin

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Coco Gauff‘s run at the Australian Open ended in the round of 16, foiled by fellow American Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Kenin ousted the 15-year-old phenom 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff, too, was bidding for her first major quarterfinal after a sterling seven months ignited by her march to the Wimbledon fourth round.

Gauff, ranked No. 684 this time last year, will near the top 50 after the Australian Open. She beat Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and took out defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round on Friday.

Gauff’s play catapulted her to fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying, but she has half the points as fourth-place Madison Keys, and a country can’t qualify more than four players in singles. The Olympic field will be determined by the WTA rankings after the French Open in June.

The 14th seed Kenin, who beat Serena Williams in the 2019 French Open third round, ranks second behind Williams in U.S. Olympic qualifying. She will face No. 27 Wang Qiang or Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.

Kenin and Alison Riske are the two remaining U.S. women in the draw.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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