McKayla Maroney

McKayla Maroney grabs some redemption by winning World Championships vault title (video)

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Impressed?

McKayla Maroney defended her vault title at the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, on Saturday. It was the same event she won silver on at the Olympics, where she entered as the favorite and became famous for her “not impressed” face on the podium.

Maroney, 17, stuck her first vault, a high-flying Amanar, for 15.966 points, though she came a bit off balance in saluting. It was the highest-scoring vault of the competition.

She had a bit of a delay before being able to perform her second vault. No matter, she scored a 15.483 for a 15.724 average to beat teammate Simone Biles for gold by .129 of a point. Biles (15.595) picked up her second medal of the meet, coupling the silver with all-around gold. North Korea’s Hong Un Jong earned bronze with a two-vault average of 15.483.

“To be completely honest, it was kind of scary,” Maroney said in a video interview published by USA Gymnastics. “There definitely was some pressure on me.

“Looking back isn’t going to help you. Moving forward is the thing you have to do.”

The Olympic gold medalist ahead of Maroney in London, Romania’s Sandra Izbasa, did not compete in Saturday’s final.

An American has won women’s vault at four straight World Championships (Kayla Williams (2009), Alicia Sacramone (2010)).

Maroney came back from a fractured tibia suffered at a post-Olympics gymnastics tour in September with a goal of defending her championship from 2011.

“A lot of people didn’t really believe in me,” Maroney said. “They kind of thought it was a fakey comeback because a lot of gymnasts have kind of done that before.”

Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina, 38, finished fifth. She competed at the 1991 World Championships for the Soviet Union and owns nine World Championship vault medals, including 2011 silver.

Here was Maroney’s facial expression on the podium in London:

source: Reuters

Here was Maroney’s facial expression on the podium Saturday:

source:

“I was trying not to cry,” Maroney said of being on the podium.

Maroney also competed in the all-around at the World Championships, where she did not qualify for the 24-woman final because two Americans finished ahead of her in qualifying.

Maroney’s World Championships are over, but her career is most certainly not:

Women’s Vault Results

Gold: McKayla Maroney (USA) 15.724
Silver: Simone Biles (USA) 15.595
Bronze: Hong Un Jong (PRK) 15.483
4. Giulia Steingruber (SUI) 15.233
5. Oksana Chusovitina (UZB) 14.583
6. Thi Ha Thanh Phan (VIE) 14.299
7. Yamilet Pena Abreu (DOM) 13.966
8. Chantysha Netteb (NED) 6.950

Here are the results and recaps of the other apparatus finals at the World Gymnastics Championships on Saturday:

Men’s Floor Exercise

Gold: Kenzo Shirai (JPN) 16
SIlver: Jacob Dalton (USA) 15.6
Bronze: Kohei Uchimura (JPN) 15.5
4. Daniel Purvis (GBR) 15.4
5. Diego Hypolito (BRA) 15.366
5. Steven Legendre (USA) 15.366
7. Fabian Hambuechen (GER) 15.3
8. Scott Morgan (CAN) 14.833

Shirai, 17, is the youngest male competitor at worlds. His routine, which scored a whopping 16.233 in qualifying, included an unprecedented quadruple twist. No other man scored better than 15.6 in qualifying or finals.

Dalton became the first American man to win a floor exercise medal at a worlds or Olympics since Paul Hamm’s gold in 2003.

Uchimura, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist and 2011 worlds gold medalist, won his 11th career World Championships medal.

Men’s Pommel Horse

Gold: Kohei Kameyama (JPN) 15.833
Silver: Max Whitlock (GBR) 15.633
Silver: Daniel Corral Barron (MEX) 15.633
4. Hongtao Zhang (CHN) 15.6
4. Alberto Busnari (ITA) 15.6
6. Robert Seligman (CRO) 15.433
7. Matvei Petrov (RUS) 15.416
8. Prashanth Sellathurai (AUS) 14.033

Kameyama became the third different Japanese gymnast to win gold in the first three events at the World Championships.

Reigning Olympic and world champion Krisztian Berki of Hungary shockingly failed to qualify for the final. Olympic silver medalist Louis Smith of Great Britain is not competing this year.

No Americans made the final on what is their Achilles heel event. The last U.S. man to win a medal on pommel horse at a worlds or Olympics was Sasha Artemev in 2006 (bronze).

Women’s Uneven Bars

Gold: Huang Huidan (CHN) 15.4
Silver: Kyla Ross (USA) 15.266
Bronze: Aliya Mustafina (RUS) 15.033
4. Simone Biles (USA) 14.716
5. Sophie Scheder (GER) 14.683
6. Yao Jinnan (CHN) 14.633
7. Ruby Harrold (GBR) 14.333
8. Rebecca Downie (GBR) 13.8

Biles’ pursuit of medals in all five events at worlds ended when Mustafina, the all-around bronze medalist, pushed her off the podium.

Still, Ross’ second silver of worlds put the U.S. in position to become the first nation to win a gold or silver in every event for one gender at a World Championships since 1992.

In 1992, the Commonwealth of Independent States (former Soviet Republics) men’s team accomplished the feat.

Ross and Biles are both qualified for the final two events Sunday — balance beam and floor exercise.

Men’s Still Rings

Gold: Arthur Zanetti (BRA) 15.8
Silver: Aleksandr Balendin (RUS) 15.733
Bronze: Brandon Wynn (USA) 15.666
4. Yang Liu (CHN) 15.633
5. Lambertus van Gelder (NED) 15.533
5. Samit Ait Said (FRA) 15.5
7. Koji Yamamuro (JPN) 15.433
8. Danny Pinheiro Rodrigues (FRA) 14.566

Wynn, the former Ohio State standout, won the first U.S. World Championships or Olympic medal on still rings since 1994. His score was challenged by the U.S., but the International Gymnastics Federation did not uphold it.

Wynn’s difficulty score had been one tenth higher in qualifying. An extra tenth would have elevated Wynn to silver.

Zanetti followed up his gold medal from the 2012 Olympics. The 2010 and 2011 world champion and 2012 Olympic silver medalist was not in the field. That’s China’s Chen Yibing, the “Lord of the Rings.”

Simone Biles’ future after winning all-around

Maria Sharapova appears set to miss Tokyo Olympics

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Maria Sharapova, who would have a difficult time qualifying for the Olympics next year, committed to play an event in California the week of the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova is scheduled to play World Team Tennis matches in California during the Olympic tennis events in late July, according to a press release. Sharapova’s longtime agent hasn’t responded to a message seeking confirmation that she is ruling out the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova, 32 and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was barred from the Rio Games due to her 15-month meldonium suspension in 2016 and 2017. That alone could rule her ineligible for Tokyo, given the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Sharapova is ranked No. 131 after a season shortened by shoulder surgery. She would have to be among the top four ranked Russian women after the French Open in June for possible automatic Olympic qualification. She is currently the 14th Russian.

Olympic eligibility rules include minimum participation requirements in Fed Cup, which Sharapova hasn’t done in this Olympic cycle, though exceptions can be made.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said in 2017. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

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Russia banned from Olympics, world champs for 4 years; athletes could compete as neutrals

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Russia is banned from the next two Olympics and other major sports events for four years, though its athletes could still compete without representing the country if cleared by anti-doping authorities.

Russia’s hosting of world championships in Olympic sports also face being stripped after the World Anti-Doping Agency executive committee approved a full slate of recommended sanctions for tampering with a Moscow laboratory database.

Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in major events — including world championships — only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or their data was not manipulated, according to the WADA ruling. “In this circumstance, they may not represent the Russian Federation,” according to a WADA release.

“While I understand the calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes whether or not they are implicated by the data, it was the unanimous view of the CRC [compliance review committee], which includes an athlete, that in this case, those who could prove their innocence should not be punished, and I am pleased that the WADA ExCo [executive committee] agreed with this,” WADA CRC chairman Jonathan Taylor said.

There are 145 unnamed athletes within WADA’s “target group of most suspicious athletes” from 2012-15 who would not be allowed to compete at the Olympics, Taylor said, adding that it’s possible those names will be made public. About one-third of them are still active.

Russia’s anti-doping agency can appeal the decision within 21 days. Russia previously signaled it would appeal the ruling.

“The decision will come into effect only when it becomes final ie when either RUSADA accepts it or it is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” a WADA spokesperson said in an email.

Russia avoided blanket bans for the Rio and PyeongChang Olympics after a state-run doping program was exposed by media and WADA investigations after Russia hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Approved Russian athletes competed as neutrals — “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — including in team sports in PyeongChang. Those Russians combined to earn two gold medals (figure skater Alina Zagitova and men’s hockey) and 17 overall, compared to the leading 33 Russia earned at the Sochi Olympics before medals were stripped for doping.

“Will Russian athletes be accepted as Olympic Athletes from Russia?” during the ban, Taylor said. “No, they are neutral athletes, which means not representatives of any country. Not representatives of Russia.”

Going forward, “they cannot use the name of the country in the name of the team,” WADA president-elect Witold Bańka told The Associated Press.

Two of the 168 Russians who competed in PyeongChang failed drug tests and were punished for doping.

More recent evidence shows that Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database to hide hundreds of potential doping cases and falsely shift the blame onto whistleblowers, WADA investigators and the International Olympic Committee said last month. “Flagrant manipulation” of the Moscow lab data was “an insult to the sporting movement worldwide,” the IOC said last month.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order … but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.

Russia will be allowed to participate in the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, that open Jan. 9.

WADA’s inability to fully expel Russia from the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games frustrated the doping watchdog’s vice president.

“I’m not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go,” said Linda Helleland, a Norwegian lawmaker who serves on WADA executive committee and has long pushed for a tougher line against Russia. “This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologize on all the pain all the athletes and sports fans have experienced.”

Although the IOC has called for the strongest possible sanctions, it wants those sanctions directed at Russian state authorities rather than athletes or Olympic officials.

“To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform.”

Russia’s Olympic champion women’s handball team is currently competing at the world championships in Japan. Its next match is Tuesday against Montenegro. Russia has been the scheduled host for the world luge championships in Sochi in mid-February.

The “major sports” events that fall under WADA’s sanctions do not include European Championships or other non-world championships events such as tennis’ upcoming Australian Open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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