Simone Biles, U.S. women better Russia in World Gymnastics Championships qualifying

Simone Biles
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Reigning World all-around champion Simone Biles paced the U.S. to the early lead in World Gymnastics Championships qualifying in Nanning, China, on Sunday.

Biles, Olympic team champion Kyla Ross and World Championships rookies MyKayla SkinnerAlyssa BaumannMadison Kocian and Ashton Locklear combined for 235.038 points, a whopping 6.903 points better than Russia totaled earlier Sunday.

Russia won the team event at the 2010 World Championships and finished second to the U.S. in 2011 and at the 2012 Olympics. There was no team event at the 2013 World Championships.

Biles, looking to become the first woman to win back-to-back World all-around titles since Svetlana Khorkina in 2001 and 2003, posted 59.599 points to take the individual all-around qualifying lead. Biles had the top provisional scores on vault, balance beam and floor exercise but struggled on her weak event, uneven bars (scoring 13.3).

“It went OK,” Biles said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “I’m really disappointed with bars, but other than that I was pretty happy.”

She’s safely into the all-around final Friday, along with Ross, who came from behind Skinner on the last apparatus, uneven bars, to lock up the second and final U.S. spot with 57.941 points. Ross suffered a hip injury before Worlds and has trained and competed with her thigh and hip taped. She said she wasn’t sure last week she would be able to perform her standard vault given the injury.

“Ever since podium [training], my hamstring and my hip has been getting better,” Ross said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “I was happy to be able to have a little bit more power.”

Russian Olympic and World all-around bronze medalist Aliya Mustafina scored 58.874 points earlier Sunday to make the all-around final.

Team medal contenders China, Great Britain and Romania go through qualifying Monday.

Team Qualifying
1. USA — 235.038
2. Russia — 228.135

All-Around Qualifying
1. Simone Biles (USA) — 59.599
2. Aliya Mustafina (RUS) — 58.874
3. Kyla Ross (USA) — 57.941

The U.S. women in position to qualify for individual event finals (top eight, maximum two per country) with one day of qualifying to go:

Vault
1. Simone Biles — 15.45 (Biles is the 2013 World silver medalist on vault)
2. MyKayla Skinner — 15.349

Uneven Bars
1. Ashton Locklear — 15.233
4. Kyla Ross — 14.65 (2013 World silver medalist)

Balance Beam
1. Simone Biles — 15.133 (2013 World bronze medalist)
3. Kyla Ross — 14.391 (2013 World silver medalist)

Floor Exercise
1. Simone Biles — 15.366 (2013 World champion)
2. MyKayla Skinner — 14.7

World Gymnastics Championships broadcast schedule

Hail Ilia Malinin’s first U.S. figure skating title for six-quad ambition, Jason Brown’s advice

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SAN JOSE, California – Ilia Malinin clearly will have mixed emotions when he remembers winning his first U.S. figure skating title.

That was apparent from his reaction after finishing Sunday’s free skate.

The 18-year-old with limitless potential and seemingly limitless confidence had been rattled by his worst free skate of the season.

He shook his head sadly. Then he shook it again.

“Of course, this wasn’t the skate I wanted, but there’s always ups and downs, and you just after get over it and move on,” Malinin said.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results

He planned the hardest technical program anyone ever had attempted, with six quadruple jumps and two challenging combinations in the second half of the four-minute program. And he gamely kept trying to execute it, even after significant mistakes that would leave him second to surprising Andrew Torgashev in the free skate.

Malinin (287.74 total points) still finished comfortably ahead of the evergreen Jason Brown (277.31). Torgashev was third overall at 256.56.

Malinin skated with doggedness rather the dynamism that infused his brilliant short program Friday, by far his best short program of the season.

“I think I was just a little bit sluggish, and I just wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen,” he said.

Malinin fell on his opening jump, the quadruple Axel, then reeled off three other quads flawlessly. He popped two other planned quads into doubles, then turned his final jumping pass, planned as a sequence of two jumps, into an unprecedented triple Lutz-triple Axel-triple toe loop sequence. For context: only Malinin has done a triple Lutz-triple Axel sequence.

“I think its’s not that I was planning too much,” he said. “I think it was I wasn’t really prepared for this amount. And it was mostly because we were focusing on that short program.”

Brown, 28, who first competed at senior nationals 12 years ago, skated magnificently. If it weren’t for a fall on his ambitious final free skate jump, a triple flip coming out of a knee slide, Brown’s overall performance in both the short and free would have been as good as any he had done in the U.S. Championships.

With his longevity and insight, Brown, a two-time Olympian and seven-time national medalist (gold in 2015) was able to put what had befallen Malinin into accurate perspective and encourage him not to lose confidence over it.

Brown heard the press conference questions Malinin was getting over what went wrong, questions both legitimate and expected, and he wanted his younger teammate not to dwell on them.

“You did a triple Lutz-triple Axel-triple toe at the end of your program, and I did a knee slide and could barely stand up to do the flip,” Brown said to Malinin, sitting next to him at the dais.

“The way you keep pushing the sport is incredible. So don’t stop being you.”

Malinin, an unexpected second at last year’s nationals, came here under a spotlight brighter than any he had experienced, largely due to his history-making success earlier this season as the first to land a quad Axel in competition.

For all his disarming bravado, evidenced by choosing quadg0d as his social media name, Malinin is not immune to the pressure of a big event and his position as favorite.

“There is an amount of experience (necessary) that it takes time to get,” Brown said. “I’ve been through it all. I’ve had a lot of ups, I’ve had a lot of downs. As you (Malinin) said, it’s how you take this experience and learn from it and grow from it. That’s what you’re going to do.”

Both Malinin and Brown leave Monday to perform eight shows in three Swiss cities over 11 days with the Art on Ice tour. They are both expected to be on the U.S. team for the world championships this March in Japan.

Malinin leaves with the title and the satisfaction of not having minimized risk given his big lead after the short program.

“This was an opportunity for me to try this new layout,” Malinin said. “Of course, it didn’t go off the best. We’ll take advice from this and look forward to worlds.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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Mark McMorris breaks Winter X Games medals record with slopestyle gold

Mark McMorris
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Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris broke his tie with American Jamie Anderson for the most Winter X Games medals across all sites, earning his 22nd medal, a slopestyle gold, in Aspen, Colorado.

On the final run of Sunday’s contest, McMorris overtook Norway’s Marcus Kleveland with back-to-back 1620s on the last two jumps. McMorris’ last three Aspen slopestyle titles were all won on his final run (2019, 2022).

“It’s something I never thought would ever come to me as a kid from Saskatchewan,” McMorris, 29, said on the broadcast. “Everything’s just been a bonus since I became a pro snowboarder.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression of their best run over the course of a jam session rather than scoring individual runs.

McMorris won his record-extending seventh X Games Aspen men’s slopestyle title, one day after finishing fourth in big air.

“It just keeps getting crazier because I keep getting older,” he said. “People just keep pushing the limits, pushing the limits. Last night was such a downer, almost bums me out, like, dude, do I still have it? … To have one of those miracle wins where you do it on the last run and someone makes you push yourself, those are the best feelings.”

McMorris won slopestyle bronze medals at each of the last three Olympics and reportedly said last February that he was planning to compete through the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games.

Canadian Max Parrot, the 2022 Olympic slopestyle champion, is taking this season off from competition.

Anderson, a two-time Olympic snowboard slopestyle champion, is expecting her first child.

Later Sunday, U.S. Olympian Mac Forehand won men’s ski big air with a 2160 on his last run, according to commentators. It scored a perfect 50. Olympic gold medalist Birk Ruud of Norway followed with a triple cork 2160 of his own, according to commentators, and finished third.

Canadian skier Megan Oldham added slopestyle gold to her big air title from Friday, relegating Olympic champion Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland to silver.

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