Gabby Douglas

Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman competitive with U.S. teammates in comeback

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Olympic champions Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman made promising returns in their first gymnastics meet since the London Games at the Jesolo Trophy in Italy on Saturday.

Douglas, the Olympic all-around champion, scored 58.9 points for fourth place among Americans. Raisman, the Olympic floor exercise champion, scored 59.1 for third.

“I was saying to Gabby, it feels like we didn’t take any time off,” Raisman said in an interview with the Italian broadcast. “We’re only more motivated than ever from here.”

As expected, two-time reigning World all-around champion Simone Biles won comfortably with 62.1. The 2013 U.S. junior champion Bailie Key was second with 59.5 in her first senior international meet.

It was the first time that the reigning Olympic all-around champion and reigning World all-around champion faced each other in a meet since 1980, according to USA Gymnastics.

The world’s other top gymnasts, from Russia, Romania and China, were not in the field.

Douglas, 19, made no major mistakes but took a small hop on her vault landing (video), a large step on her uneven bars dismount (video), a small hop on her balance beam dismount (video) and a large step on a floor pass (video).

She had 1.9 points fewer in start value than at the London Olympics. It’s to be expected that she would not perform the most difficult routines in her first meet in nearly 1,000 days. Douglas competed with her right ankle wrapped.

“We put in a lot of hard work,” Douglas said on the Italian broadcast. “It’s phenomenal being back.”

Raisman, 20, starred on her Olympic gold medal event, floor exercise. She scored a 15.2 (video), beaten only by Biles, who is the two-time reigning World champion in the event.

Biles, 18, posted the highest scores of Americans on all four apparatuses. The U.S. team includes 10 women whom USA Gymnastics national team coordinator Martha Karolyi deemed contenders to make the six-woman World Championships team in October.

Five women can make the 2016 Olympic team. Douglas, Raisman, Kyla Ross (who was 2.15 points behind Douglas on Saturday) and McKayla Maroney hope to be the first women since 2000 to make back-to-back U.S. Olympic teams.

The Jesolo Trophy, streamed on the Italian Gymnastics Federation’s YouTube page, concludes with individual apparatus finals Sunday at 4:30 a.m. ET.

The next likely meet for the top U.S. gymnasts is the Secret U.S. Classic on July 25 in Hoffman, Estates, Ill.

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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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MORE: J.R. Celski explains decision to retire

Maia, Alex Shibutani extend break from ice dance competition

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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.

MORE: How Gracie Gold landed in Philadelphia, thoughts competitive return

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