U.S. women win World Gymnastics Championships team gold in record rout (video)

USA women's gymnastics
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The U.S. is still in a class of its own in women’s gymnastics, winning the World Championship team gold by an even more extraordinary margin than it did at Worlds in 2011 and the Olympics in 2012.

Simone BilesKyla RossAlyssa BaumannMadison Kocian, Ashton Locklear and MyKayla Skinner combined for 179.28 points, 6.693 better than silver medalist China in Nanning on Wednesday. Russia, which finished second to the U.S. in 2011 and 2012, was third.

“Three-up, three-count, you have to hit,” Baumann said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “Everyone hit all their events.”

It’s the largest women’s team margin of victory at a World Championships or Olympics since the new scoring system was implemented in 2006.

The U.S. won the 2011 World Championships by 4.082. It won the 2012 Olympics by 5.066, which was the previous record. There was no team event at the 2013 World Championships.

The men’s record margin is 7.25 points, set by China at the 2008 Olympics.

“They were able to come in and not be intimidated and just do the job they were prepared for,” U.S. National Team coordinator Martha Karolyi said in Nanning. “I think our girls are performing at a level much higher than the rest of the world.”

Gymnastics scores are made up of two parts — difficulty and execution. Chinese star Yao Jinnan was asked what the difference was between the U.S. and China.

“I think the distance majorly lies in execution and difficulty,” she said.

A key apparatus, as in 2011 and 2012, was vault, boosted in particular by higher difficulty from the Americans. They scored 2.042 more points than any other nation on vault Wednesday.

In 2011, the U.S. scored 2.3 more than any other nation in vault in the Worlds team final. In 2012, the difference was 1.766 in the Olympics.

The Americans also posted the highest score of all eight nations on their Achilles’ heel event, uneven bars.

The U.S.’ dominance this year is even more remarkable given several of its best gymnasts were left at home.

Maggie Nichols, the No. 3 all-arounder behind Biles and Ross at the P&G Championships, dislocated a kneecap. Rachel Gowey, fourth at the Secret Classic behind Biles, Ross and Nichols, broke an ankle. McKayla Maroney had knee surgery in March, and Gabby Douglas pushed back her return to next year. Olympic alternate and 2014 American Cup winner Elizabeth Price retired from elite gymnastics in April.

Of course, what this means for the Rio 2016 Olympics isn’t totally clear. Only one woman from the 2010 U.S. World Championships team that won silver behind Russia made it back for the London 2012 Olympics — Aly Raisman. Two years is a long time in women’s gymnastics.

The World Championships continue with the men’s all-around final Thursday (full schedule here). Japan’s Kohei Uchimura is a heavy favorite to win his fifth straight World title. No other male or female gymnast has won four.

Biles and Ross go in the women’s all-around final Friday. Biles, also a heavy favorite, will try to become the first woman to win back-to-back World titles since Russian Svetlana Khorkina in 2001 and 2003.

“Just go back and sleep, and then I guess we get the morning off maybe tomorrow from practice,” Biles said. “I think we might go [get] manis and pedis.”

Video: China stuns Japan in men’s team final on last routine

Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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