American Simone Biles wins World Gymnastics Championships all-around title (video)

Simone Biles
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The world’s best female gymnast is Simone Biles, a 16-year-old Texan with braces who beat a field of Olympians to win the world all-around title in her first major international meet.

Biles, the 2013 U.S. all-around champion, scored 60.216 points, coming from behind after three of four rotations to overtake teammate Kyla Ross, who had 59.332 points.

Russian Aliya Mustafina, the 2010 world all-around champion, won bronze with 58.856 in Antwerp, Belgium, on Friday.

Ross, the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic champion team, led by a tiny .016 of a point going into the final rotation, floor exercise.

Biles had a huge advantage over Ross going into that event, outscoring her by .7 in qualifying and .45 and .8 at the U.S. Championships in August.

It would have been a shock if Biles didn’t pass Ross on the final event. She delivered a 15.233 after Ross posted a 14.333 to become the seventh U.S. woman to win a world all-around title.

“It feels pretty good, but it hasn’t really sunken in yet, but I know what I’ve done is a big accomplishment,” Biles said in a video interview posted by USA Gymnastics.

The World Championships conclude with apparatus finals this weekend, including McKayla Maroney on vault Saturday.

World Gymnastics Championships broadcast schedule

Biles received a big boost on her opening event, vault. She performed an Amanar, which carried an extra half-twist and a half-point higher start value than the vaults of Ross and Mustafina. Biles led by nearly a half-point over Ross and almost a full point over Mustafina after the first rotation.

Though Ross outscored Biles on the next two apparatus, uneven bars and balance beam, she needed a much bigger advantage going into floor exercise to have a chance at gold.

Over the last 10 years, 10 different female gymnasts have been the highest-placing American at the World Championships or Olympics. This speaks to the extraordinary turnover in a sport where the last three U.S. Olympic teams were all rookies.

Biles could very well still be on top next year. She’s young enough to still be on the rise, and the top two U.S. juniors from this year are too young to enter senior competitions in 2014. And who knows what form Gabby DouglasAly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber will be in if and when they return.

But what about 2016? Biles must show staying power not seen in women’s gymnastics in the last two Olympic cycles. In 2005, Chellsie Memmel won the World Championship, but injuries kept her from being an all-arounder at the 2008 Olympics.

In 2009, Bridget Sloan and Rebecca Bross went one-two at the World Championships. Neither made the 2012 Olympic team.

Uchimura’s place in history with record-breaking men’s title

Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine
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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”