USA women's gymnastics

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

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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

Alysa Liu rallies to win Junior Grand Prix with another quadruple jump

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U.S. figure skating champion Alysa Liu landed a quadruple Lutz for a second straight Junior Grand Prix, rallying from fourth after the short program to win an event in Poland on Friday.

Liu, who in January became the youngest U.S. champion in history at age 13, won both of her starts in her first season on the Junior Grand Prix to become the first U.S. woman to qualify for the six-skater Junior Grand Prix Final since 2013 (Polina Edmunds and Karen Chen). The Final is held with the senior Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, in December.

She won Friday by 6.63 points by surpassing a pair of Russians, a rarity in this era. Her free skate is here.

Liu trailed by 4.03 points after doubling a planned triple loop in the short program. She was the lone skater in the field to attempt a triple Axel (landing three of them, including two in combination and one with a negative grade of execution) or a quad.

Liu tallied 138.99 points in the free skate and 203.10 overall. She ranks sixth in the world this season by best total scores among junior and senior skaters, though some top skaters have yet to compete.

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Rafaela Silva, first Brazilian gold medalist at Rio Olympics, claims innocence after positive drug test

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Rafaela Silva, the judoka who grew up in Rio’s most famously violent favela to become Brazil’s first gold medalist at the Rio Olympics, reportedly tested positive for a banned substance last month.

Silva tested positive for fenoterol, a substance that can be legal to treat asthma if an athlete has a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). Silva did not have a TUE before testing positive at the Pan American Games in August, according to Brazilian media.

A possible punishment has not been announced.

Silva claimed innocence at a news conference Friday afternoon, saying that a young child with whom she had bodily contact at her training location used the substance, and she plans to compete at a domestic event this weekend, according to O Globo.

Silva, 27, backed up her Rio Olympic 57kg title by taking bronze at the world championships later in August. If she is punished for the positive test, Silva could lose that bronze medal, though she said Friday that she had a clean drug test at worlds, according to O Globo.

Silva, from Rio’s Ciadade de Deus favela, has the Olympic rings tattooed on her right bicep with the inscription “God knows how much I’ve suffered and what I’ve done to get here.”

Brazil’s top female swimmer, Etiene Medeiros, reportedly tested positive for fenoterol in May 2016 but was cleared to compete at the Rio Olympics.

In PyeongChang, Slovenian hockey player Ziga Jeglic tested positive for fenoterol and was scratched before his nation’s last game before it was announced. Jeglic was suspended from the Games and, later, was suspended eight months.

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