Sam Mikulak three-peats at P&G Championships on fall-filled day

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INDIANAPOLIS — Sam Mikulak spoke for the entire U.S. men’s gymnastics program shortly after clinching his third straight national all-around title Sunday afternoon.

“We’ve got things we can fix,” he said.

The Olympian Mikulak became the first man in 11 years to three-peat at the P&G Championships, but his winning margin of 4.35 points (a record under the nine-year-old scoring system) was more due to the struggles of others than his own execution over two days of competition.

The top five men in the all-around standings going into Sunday all crashed to the mat on high bar, Mikulak included.

There were more mishaps, particularly on the U.S.’ longtime Achilles’ heel event, pommel horse. From form breaks to messy dismounts to scary falls, such as 18-year-old Alec Yoder going head first to the floor.

“Every one of us made a stupid mistake,” said two-time Olympian Jonathan Horton, who dropped off high bar and pommel horse, from fourth to ninth place overall, and out of the World Championships team picture. “Cost me top three in the all-around.”

Mikulak and second-place Donnell Whittenburg clinched two spots on the six-man team for the World Championships. The other four men, including Olympic all-aroud bronze medalist Danell Leyva, were announced later Sunday.

The U.S. will be without Olympians John Orozco and Jacob Dalton at the World Championships. Orozco re-tore an Achilles in June and is out until 2016. Dalton withdrew before the P&G Championships with small shoulder labrum tear.

Orozco and Dalton finished second and third behind Mikulak at the 2014 P&G Championships.

Watch Mikulak’s routines: Parallel Bars | Still Rings

The U.S. earned bronze medals at the last two World Championships to include team competitions, in 2011 and 2014. In between, it finished fifth at the London Olympics after scoring the highest in qualifying.

What happened Sunday was eerily reminiscent of that Olympic team final, where the U.S. counted falls on pommel horse, floor exercise and vault.

“In the long scheme of things, it’s not this competition that really matters,” Mikulak said. “It’s a test event, would you say, for World Championships. We’ve got, I think, 10 weeks until Worlds.”

The Worlds team medal picture?

China and Japan took gold and silver, respectively, at every Olympics and World Championships since 2007. The U.S., if it corrects the slew of mistakes, appears to be fighting for bronze at best in Glasgow.

The favorite for bronze could very well be Worlds host Great Britain, which beat the U.S. for that medal at the Olympics and was fourth at the 2014 Worlds in Nanning, China.

The absences of Orozco and Dalton leave gaping holes. Nobody appeared ready to fill them on Sunday, but the difference at Worlds is that the six team members will only compete on their best events, rather than all six apparatuses as they did Sunday. Three men out of six perform per apparatus in the Worlds team final.

Mikulak remained optimistic as he sat in the shadow of the struggles, on the high bar podium shortly after the competition Sunday afternoon.

“The best part is that I think everyone can step up,” Mikulak said. “Maybe having some new variety in the mix from what we’re originally used to will be kind of a good thing. It could be some new spark that no one’s seen before.”

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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.

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