Sam Mikulak

Sam Mikulak hopes he’s closing gap on Kohei Uchimura

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Sam Mikulak entered the sixth and last rotation of the 2013 World Championships all-around final in third place, looking to win the first U.S. men’s all-around medal since 2010.

Mikulak, at his first Worlds, would finish his night on high bar, arguably his strongest event. If every gymnast repeated his qualifying score from his last event in the all-around final, Mikulak would win the silver medal.

No U.S. man had won an Olympic or World all-around silver or gold medal since Paul Hamm‘s Olympic title at Athens 2004.

Mikulak likely wasn’t thinking of such feats — he said he felt no nerves — but he erred on high bar and plummeted to sixth place. Mikulak had made the 2012 Olympic team as a rising University of Michigan junior and won his first P&G Championships all-around title the following year.

He was second to Japan’s Kohei Uchimura in 2013 Worlds all-around qualifying and was set to be the closest man to Uchimura again before that last rotation in the final in Antwerp, Belgium. Uchimura won his record fourth straight World all-around title, earning more of an argument for greatest-ever status.

Even if he hit high bar, Mikulak would have finished more than one full point behind Uchimura, continuing the great divide in men’s gymnastics. Mikulak was asked that night what he lacked to be competitive with Uchimura.

“Start value,” he told reporters in Antwerp. “I think that’s all I’m missing.”

Mikulak gets his second chance to win an all-around medal and challenge Uchimura at the World Championships in Nanning, China, over the next week. The U.S. men go through qualifying Saturday. The all-around final is Thursday (full broadcast schedule here).

Start value, or difficulty score, is one of two parts that make up a gymnast’s total score on each apparatus. The other is the execution score, based out of 10 per event.

In Antwerp, Uchimura had a combined start value total of 38.2 points over all six events. Mikulak’s start value was 36.4 (36.9 in qualifying). Mikulak went into the sixth and last rotation 1.675 points behind Uchimura and finished 3.442 behind after that high bar mistake.

Mikulak averaged a combined start value of 37.35 at the 2013 P&G Championships, before 2013 Worlds. At this year’s P&G Championships, Mikulak had a combined start value of 38 on the second day, when he came from fourth place back to win.

On top of that, Mikulak promised additional difficulty for Worlds after the P&G Championships in Pittsburgh last month. He showed that in training in Nanning this week, performing a vault with four tenths more difficulty than he did at P&Gs or in 2013.

In other words, Mikulak appears to be closing the gap in difficulty, the caveat being it’s not known exactly what Uchimura plans to unleash in Nanning.

“[Mikulak] probably could have finished in the all-around second in the world [in 2013],” Mikulak’s coach, Kurt Golder, said at the P&G Championships. “That’s right about where he stands right now.

“This guy from Japan, Uchimura, he’s fantastic. That’s the target. That’s the one we’re chasing.”

Mikulak is seen as one of the biggest threats to Uchimura’s dominance. The Japanese won silver at the 2008 Olympics and has won every annual global title since. He is the only gymnast, male or female, to win four World all-around titles.

The other top all-around gymnasts in Nanning include Japan’s Ryohei Kato, Great Britain’s Max Whitlock and Germany’s Fabian Hambuechen. Mikulak trained with the three-time Olympian Hambuechen earlier this year.

“I’m chipping away at it, making sure my start values are getting higher and higher as the years go on,” Mikulak, who is four years younger than Uchimura, said at the P&G Championships. “Hopefully, when it comes Rio time, I’ll be up there with his start values.”

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Chicago Marathon canceled; one major marathon left in 2020

Chicago Marathon
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The Chicago Marathon, scheduled for Oct. 11, was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, becoming the fourth World Marathon Major called off this year.

Organizers cited the challenge of staging the 45,000-runner event “out of concern for the safety of event participants, volunteers, event staff and spectators.”

Previously, major marathons were canceled in Berlin (originally scheduled for Sept. 27), Boston (April 20, then Sept. 14) and New York City (Nov. 1). The London Marathon, originally scheduled for April 26 and postponed to Oct. 4, remains scheduled.

The other World Marathon Major, Tokyo, took place on its scheduled date of March 1 but with elite runners only.

Last year, Kenyan Brigid Kosgei won Chicago by taking 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record. Kosgei clocked 2:14:04.

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Figure skating Grand Prix events in China remain scheduled

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Figure skating Grand Prix events in China in November and December remain scheduled, the International Skating Union announced Monday, four days after reports about international sporting events in China being canceled through the end of 2020.

A notice about sports events, issued Thursday by the General Administration of Sport of China, made an exception for Beijing Winter Olympic test events and other preparations for the first Winter Games in China in February 2022.

The Grand Prix Final, the second-most prestigious annual figure skating competition, is still scheduled for December in Beijing because it is an Olympic test event.

Furthermore, the Cup of China, one of six events across the globe that determines Grand Prix Final qualifiers, remains scheduled for November in Chongqing because it is related to the Final.

“Like for all other five ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating events in the different countries, this is of course subject to finding the necessary logistical, medical and safety solutions to hold the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating events as planned,” according to the ISU.

The ISU previously announced it set a deadline to decide on possible event cancellations: 12 weeks before an event starts. For the first Grand Prix Series competition, Skate America in Las Vegas, the decision deadline is Aug. 1.

The ISU council will meet virtually on Aug. 3 to decide on further action for upcoming competitions.

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