Analyzing the U.S. gymnastics women’s World Championships team

Simone Biles, Kyla Ross
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The world’s two best gymnasts last year, Simone Biles and Kyla Ross, will lead the U.S. at the World Championships in Nanning, China, from Oct. 5-12.

Biles, Ross and four women who have never competed at an Olympics or Worlds are charged with winning a third straight global gold, something no nation has done since the Romanian dynasty of the late 1990s. The Americans, then led by Gabby DouglasJordyn WieberAly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, won the 2011 World Championships and 2012 Olympics.

There was no team event at the 2013 World Championships. This U.S. squad is far different from the Fierce Five of the London Games. For one, there are six gymnasts on a World Championships roster.

In Nanning, the U.S.’ biggest competition should be Russia, which won silver at the 2011 Worlds and 2012 Olympics.

The Russian team pillar is Aliya Mustafina, who led the nation to team gold at the 2010 Worlds, tore an ACL in 2011, won Olympic all-around bronze in 2012 and World all-around bronze in 2013.

Viktoria Komova, the 2011 World and 2012 Olympic all-around silver medalist, could miss a second straight World Championships. She wasn’t on Russia’s nominative team and has dealt with injury since the London Games.

The U.S. has issues of its own. Maroney isn’t competing this season after March knee surgery. Several other up-and-coming gymnasts have been knocked out by injuries this year, including the 2011 and 2012 U.S. junior all-around champions and the third-place finisher from this year’s P&G Championships senior all-around.

As far as the Rio Olympic outlook, keep in mind that one of the seven gymnasts on the 2010 World Championships team made it back for the 2012 Olympic team — Raisman.

Here’s a look at the U.S. team and each gymnast’s credentials (*one of the seven will be designated the alternate once in China):

Simone Biles: The two-time reigning U.S. all-around champion and the reigning World all-around champion will be counted on heavily. Biles, 17, won medals on every apparatus except uneven bars (where she finished fourth) at the 2013 World Championships in perhaps the greatest single-meet performance in U.S. gymnastics history.

Kyla Ross: The only Olympian on the U.S. roster finished second to Biles in the all-around at the last two P&G Championships and the 2013 World Championships. She is arguably the second-best gymnast in the world. Ross won silver on uneven bars and balance beam at the 2013 Worlds and placed fifth in the floor exercise final. Like Biles, she will be leaned on in the team competition.

Alyssa Baumann: Baumann, from the same gym that produced Nastia Liukin and Carly Patterson, finished fourth in the all-around at the P&G Championships. She turned 16 on May 17 and is the youngest member of the U.S. team. She could join Biles and Ross on balance beam and floor exercise in the team final.

MyKayla Skinner: Not to be confused with Maroney, Skinner has won medals on vault at the last three U.S. Championships. An American woman has won a vault medal at each of the last seven World Championships. If Biles can’t keep the streak going in Nanning, Skinner could very well.

Ashton Locklear: The North Carolina native won the P&G Championships title on uneven bars, an event in which the U.S. has lacked depth in recent years. It is Biles’ weakest event, creating an opening for Locklear to be an asset in the three-up, three-count format in the team final.

Madison Kocian: Kocian appears to have edged 2013 Worlds selection Brenna Dowell for this spot on the strength of her P&G Championships bars silver behind Locklear. (Dowell, the 2013 P&G Championships bronze medalist on bars, has dealt with an ankle injury and is the non-traveling alternate.)

Madison Desch: Desch, part of the Pan American Championships team with Skinner, Locklear and Kocian, has performed her best on floor exercise at the last two P&G Championships. Before that, she won balance beam and was second in the all-around in the junior division at Nationals in 2012.

Kohei Uchimura’s mother competes in gymnastics meet

Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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