Simone Biles

Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas make all-around final as U.S. leads World Championships qualifying

Leave a comment

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — In 15 minutes, it was over. Done. The message had been sent.

Five dynamic floor routines — one of them unforgettably done without the music — and whatever initial jitters the U.S. women’s gymnastics team felt heading into the 2015 World Championships vanished.

They were in their element. Packed arena. Bright lights. Ridiculous expectations. Even on a day the best team on the planet wasn’t always at its best, the six young women in the bedazzled magenta leotards left little doubt. The gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world shows no signs of closing less than a year before the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Led by two-time defending World champion Simone Biles and resurgent Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, the Americans posted a team score of 236.611, more than five points clear of second-place Russia, the equivalent to a three-touchdown blowout.

Barring the unexpected, Tuesday night’s eight-team final is on pace to end just like every other major international competition has over the last four years: with the U.S. on top of the podium and the rest of the world looking up.

Way up.

Biles, Douglas, Aly Raisman, Maggie Nichols, Brenna Dowell and Madison Kocian spent four rotations showcasing the depth that makes the U.S. nearly unstoppable. One of them would start each stop around the SSE Hydro with a solid set only to have a teammate come right out and top it. When the rare misstep popped up, the mistake was easily erased under a format that allowed each team to drop its lowest score.

“We’re all really strong,” said Douglas, who finished second to Biles in all-around qualifying. “We’re all really strong. We all have different things, different treasures we can contribute to U.S.”

And no gymnast has more to add than Biles. Part powder keg, part technical marvel and all boundless energy, the 18-year-old hardly seemed burdened by her quest for a three-peat.

Biles’ electric floor exercise ended with a bounce and a flourish. Her 15.933 was an exclamation point that the struggles endured by the so-so Russians, the sluggish Chinese and the injury decimated Romanians would not happen to the U.S. until things were well in hand.

“We love ending on (floor exercise),” said Biles, whose all-around total of 61.598 easily topped qualifying. “(But) to start off with a bang is pretty exciting too.”

One no other country can match.

MORE GYMNASTICS: Full list of Worlds finals qualifiers

The Americans were so locked in they could do their routines blindfolded, which is basically what happened to Dowell on the floor. Her music played briefly only to cut out. Dowell walked off the floor only to race back on and give it a shot anyway, getting an assist from the crowd, which tried to clap along as she ripped through arguably the oddest 75 seconds of her competitive life.

National team coordinator Martha Karolyi‘s voice cut the silence.

“I heard Martha saying ‘Go! Go! Go!’ because the timing was all the way down, so I just went,” Dowell said. “I’ve done that routines so many times, I knew exactly how to do it.”

Though her mark of 13.966 was the lowest among her teammates, it hardly mattered. Dowell’s perseverance — she was an alternate on both the 2013 and 2014 world championship teams — proved emblematic of a team whose mental toughness is nearly as remarkable as its considerable skill.

At the moment, there is the U.S. and everyone else, which can lead to some awkward moments even among good friends. The only real drama came in the race to see which of Biles’ teammates would finish second to her in the all-around. Douglas and Raisman, a fellow member of the “Fierce Five” team that rolled to gold at the 2012 Olympics, spent four rotations shadow boxing each other.

The rules stipulate that only two athletes per country can compete in any one individual final, regardless of where they end up in the overall all-around race. Douglas and Raisman are well-versed in the stakes, though Douglas appeared to have the opening she needed when Raisman slipped off the uneven bars. Douglas then nearly squandered it, smacking her ribs onto the balance beam. Raisman followed moments later with a steady routine that put it in the hands of the judges.

The two oldest members of the team stood 15 feet from each other staring at the scoreboard. When Raisman’s mark of 14.066 posted — good enough for fourth overall but not quite enough to catch Douglas’s second-place total of 57.516 — Raisman stoically tried to mask her disappointment.

“It’s probably one of the worst meets I’ve ever had in my life and I’m still fourth in the world,” Raisman said, “so that’s pretty ridiculous.”

So is the mental edge the Americans seem to have over the field. China opened Saturday’s competition with a string of unusual slip-ups on bars, typically a strength. The ended up fourth behind the U.S., Russia and host Britain and more than 10 points behind the U.S.

“We have improvements to make as a team,” said Chang Sungchong. “We will try our very best in every step. Although we won’t (beat) the Americans, we should put up an air like the Chinese men’s team.”

One problem: the only squad with that kind of swagger is the one the Chinese women — and everyone else — are trying to catch

MORE GYMNASTICS: World Championships broadcast schedule

IOC pledges €500,000 to help restore Notre Dame ahead of 2024 Olympics

1 Comment

The International Olympic Committee plans to donate €500,000 ($562,000) to the restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral in the 2024 Olympic host city.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that he wants to see Notre Dame restored within five years.

“The aim of completing the reconstruction in time for Paris 2024 will be an extra motivation for all of us,” IOC president Thomas Bach wrote in a Wednesday letter to Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet, according to a translation by Agence France-Presse, which reported Notre Dame is on the planned marathon and road cycling routes. “All the Olympic Movement and in particular the IOC have been extremely touched by the instantaneous connection the French have made between Notre Dame cathedral and the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”

More than $500 million has been pledged overall from around the globe after a fire ravaged the 850-year-old cathedral on Monday.

NBC News has more on the Notre Dame fire here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Patrick Kane joined by NHL All-Stars on world championship roster

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NHL All-Stars Jack EichelRyan Suter and Cory Schneider join previously named captain Patrick Kane to lead the U.S. at next month’s world hockey championship in Slovakia, seeking the nation’s first title at a standalone worlds since 1933.

Sixteen players were added to the roster in Thursday’s announcement with more to come before worlds open May 10 and more teams get eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, making more players available. The IIHF allows up to 25 players per nation.

Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill will be the U.S. head coach for a third straight worlds. The Americans lost in the quarterfinals in 2017 and earned bronze in 2018, sandwiching an Olympic quarterfinal exit in PyeongChang without NHL players.

Sweden is trying to become the first nation to three-peat at worlds since the Czech Republic in 2001.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Preliminary IIHF World Championship Roster

Alex DeBrincat (Chicago Blackhawks)
Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres)
Luke Glendening (Detroit Red Wings)
Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks)
Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes)
Chris Kreider (New York Rangers)
Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings)
James van Riemsdyk (Philadelphia Flyers)
Frank Vatrano (Florida Panthers)
Colin White (Ottawa Senators)

Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks)
Alec Martinez (Los Angeles Kings)
Brady Skjei (New York Rangers)
Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild)

Thatcher Demko (Vancouver Canucks)
Cayden Primeau (Laval (AHL))
Cory Schneider (New Jersey Devils)