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

Michael Johnson took Olympic mindset in stroke recovery

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Michael Johnson‘s first walk, reportedly three days after suffering a stroke in the summer, was 200 meters down a hospital corridor.

“It took about 15 minutes,” Johnson said in a BBC video, detailing his full recovery in recent interviews.

Johnson, who at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics swept the 200m (in a world-record 19.32 seconds) and the 400m, suffered what he called “a mini stroke” after a home workout in late August.

Johnson felt not pain but tingling leaving his home gym and underwent a 20-minute MRI. The 50-year-old, who worked out regularly and was in otherwise great physical shape, almost fell rising out of the machine.

“Couldn’t put any weight on left side, no longer could really move my left leg,” Johnson said in the BBC interview. “The numbness of my left arm, which was sort of mild at the beginning and up to that point, was really intense at that point. I couldn’t feel a lot of my arm. You immediately start to think about, what’s my life going to be like going forward?”

There was no immediate answer.

“You start to think about loved ones — is my wife going to have to take care of me for the rest of my life?” Johnson said, according to the Telegraph. “Am I going to be able to walk again? Am I going to be in a wheelchair? Am I going to be able to stand in the shower or go to the restroom alone? You’re forced to think about what your life might be like if that worse-case scenario is reality.”

He began physical therapy early the next week. After that first walk, the distance equivalent of a half-lap of the track that he owned in the 1990s, he told his wife, “I will make a full recovery, and I will make a full recovery faster than anyone has ever done it before,” according to the Telegraph.

Within two weeks, Johnson was backing that up. He tweeted a photo of himself on Sept. 13, his 51st birthday, grimacing while lifting a square-shaped weight with each hand. “Almost back to normal. No days off! Even today. My birthday!” the caption read.

On Sept. 27, Johnson tweeted that it had been grueling, but he relearned to walk and made a full recovery.

“Once I knew that I will make a full recovery, and once I started to believe that, it’s very similar to the type of situation that I experienced as an athlete training for the Olympic Games, then all of a sudden suffering a pulled hamstring,” said Johnson, who fell to the track in the 2000 Olympic Trials 200m final with an upper left leg injury, then won the 400m at his last Games in Sydney. “The reward, in this particular situation, was going to be even greater, was going to be able to walk again, regaining my mobility, regaining my independence.”

MORE: Michael Johnson: My advice to Usain Bolt on retirement

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Tatjana Hüfner, 2010 Olympic luge champion, to retire after this season

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Tatjana Hüfner, a 2010 Olympic luge champion and five-time world champion in singles, said she will retire after this season, according to German newspaper Bild.

Hüfner, 35, cited recent health problems, including back and leg injuries leading into her last Olympics in PyeongChang, where she finished fourth, missing a fourth straight medal by .69 of a second (Hüfner dropped from second place going into the last run). Plus breaking a rib in a training crash this preseason, plus suffering food poisoning, according to the report.

Hüfner, who reportedly said before February’s Olympics that they would be her final Games, has been arguably the most integral luger in Germany’s recent dominance in female sliding.

Her Olympic career began as a spectator at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, watching Sylke Otto lead a German medal sweep. Later, Hüfner would break Otto’s record with five world singles titles, plus join Otto on the podium at Torino 2006, earning bronze. Hüfner took gold in Vancouver, then silver behind the new leading woman, Natalie Geisenberger, in Sochi.

Huefner spent offseasons scaling European peaks such as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, the Matterhorn, and the Sella in northern Italy.

This season’s world championships are in Winterberg, Germany, in January.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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