China stuns Japan at World Gymnastics Championships; U.S. wins bronze (video)

China men's gymnastics
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Host China extended its men’s gymnastic dynasty, by the closest margin in at least the last 25 years, at the World Championships on Tuesday. The U.S. men bounced back from Olympic disappointment to win bronze.

The five-time reigning World champion Chinese needed a 15.867 on their 18th and final routine to pass Japan, which had led after each of the first six rotations in rival territory in Nanning.

Zhang Chenglong delivered a spectacular high bar performance and was rewarded with a 15.966, the highest score among all 144 routines on Tuesday by .066.

Zhang, the 2010 World high bar champion, had scored 15.166 in qualifying last week. The top high bar score among all gymnasts in qualifying was a 15.6.

The one tenth margin of victory was the closest in a men’s or women’s Olympic or Worlds team final under the new scoring system implemented in 2006.

China kept its streak going. It has won every Olympic and World Championship gold medal since Japan’s last gold at the Athens 2004 Olympics. China hadn’t lost at the World Championships since 2001.

The U.S. came from behind Great Britain after four of six rotations to win bronze at a second straight World Championships, by more than a point over the Brits. The U.S. fell to fifth at the 2012 Olympics in between the two Worlds bronze medals.

“It’s a little redemption,” two-time P&G Championships all-around winner Sam Mikulak said in USA Gymnastics interview. “We’ve still got a couple of years til Rio. We’re always searching for that gold.”

In Nanning, the Chinese fell behind on the first rotation, counting a fall on floor exercise. They stood in fifth place after one rotation and sixth after two rotations.

Japan suffered another disappointment, winning silver behind China for a fourth straight World Championships. The Japanese also won silver at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

The last time Japan won the World Championship was at the tail end of its dynasty in 1978.

“We felt we gave it all we could,” Japan’s four-time reigning World all-around champion Kohei Uchimura said, according to The Associated Press. “Zhang’s performance was spectacular. We gave it 100 percent, and while we can’t be satisfied with the result we can be pleased with our performances.”

The World Gymnastics Championships continue with the women’s team final Wednesday (full broadcast schedule here). The U.S. is a heavy favorite to win its second straight title.

Men’s Team Final
Gold — China 273.369
Silver — Japan 273.269
Bronze — USA 270.369

Simone Biles dominates in World Gymnastics Championships qualifying

In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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