China men's gymnastics

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

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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

Sam Girard, Olympic short track champion, surprisingly retires at age 22

Sam Girard
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Sam Girard, who avoided a three-skater pileup to win the PyeongChang Olympic 1000m, retired from short track speed skating at age 22, saying he lost the desire to compete.

“I leave my sport satisfied with what I have accomplished,” Girard said in a press release. “This decision was very well thought through. I am at peace with the choice that I’ve made and am ready to move onto the next step.”

Girard and girlfriend and fellow Olympic skater Kasandra Bradette announced their careers end together in a tearful French-language press conference in Quebec on Friday.

Girard detailed the decision in a letter, the sacrifices made to pursue skating. Notably, moving from his hometown of Ferland-et-Boilleau, population 600, to Montreal in 2012. His hobbies had been of the outdoor variety, but he now had to drive an hour and a half from the training center just to go fishing.

In PyeongChang, Girard led for most of the 1000m final, which meant he avoided chaos behind him on the penultimate lap of the nine-lap race. Hungarian Liu Shaolin Sandor‘s inside pass took out South Koreans Lim Hyo-Jun and Seo Yi-Ra, leaving just Girard and American John-Henry Krueger.

Girard maintained his lead, crossing .214 in front of Krueger to claim the title. He also finished fourth in the 500m and 1500m and earned bronze in the relay.

“My first Olympics, won a gold medal, can’t ask for more,” he said afterward.

Though Girard was already accomplished — earning individual silver medals at the 2016 and 2017 Worlds — he came to PyeongChang as the heir apparent to Charles Hamelin, a roommate on the World Cup circuit whom Girard likened to a big brother. Girard earned another world silver medal this past season.

Hamelin, after taking individual gold in 2010 and 2014, left PyeongChang without an individual medal in what many expected to be his last Olympics. However, he went back on a retirement vow and continued to skate through the 2018-19 season.

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Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

AP
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Brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani will not compete next season, the Olympic bronze medalists announced via U.S. Figure Skating on Friday.

“We’re healthier and stronger than we were after the Olympics, and we’re continuing to push ourselves,” Maia Shibutani said in a press release.

“We’ve continued to skate a lot, and we feel like we’ve benefited from some time away to create in different environments and focus on experiences that can help us grow,” Alex said.

The “Shib Sibs” won the U.S. title in 2016 and 2017. They won their first world medal in 2011 (bronze) before reaching the world podium again in 2016 and 2017 with silver and bronze, respectively.

They most recently competed at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, where they earned bronze both individually and in the team event.

Maia and Alex Shibutani are now the second ice dance medalists from PyeongChang to announce they’ll sit out at least part of next season. Gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada will tour instead this fall and are not expected to return to competition.

The siblings haven’t stayed away from the ice entirely in their break from the sport, though — they’ve also been touring and performing in shows.

The Shibutanis became the second set of siblings to earn Olympic ice dance medals after France’s Isabelle and Paul Duchesnay in 1992.

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