McKayla Maroney

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

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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

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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