Donnell Whittenburg
Getty Images

Two prevailing storylines in World Gymnastics Championships men’s team final

Leave a comment

Two questions hang over the World Gymnastics Championships men’s team final on Wednesday.

Can Japan end China’s dynasty?

How much will the loss of three Olympians impact the U.S.?

China has won six straight World Championships and the last two Olympics, its reign dating to 2006.

Japan finished second each time, but it appeared en route to gold at the 2014 Worlds in China until a clutch final high bar routine lifted the Chinese to the title by one tenth of a point. That marked the smallest margin of victory by a men’s or women’s team at an Olympics or Worlds since the sport threw out the perfect-10 scoring system a decade ago.

Japan’s confidence must be higher this week in Glasgow, Scotland, given it qualified first into the team final by 1.857 points over China.

However, if one adds up all the scores in qualifying by gymnasts who will contest the team final, China would beat Japan by .508.

Japan, led by five-time World all-around champion Kohei Uchimura, continues to look to preserve its heritage as the sport’s greatest dynastic nation.

Japan captured every Olympic and World title from 1960 through 1978, when Worlds were once every four years, but China is gaining.

Uchimura, arguably the greatest gymnast in history, has repeated that he values a team gold medal over an individual all-around title. He is going on all six events Wednesday, which he didn’t do in 2014.

The bronze-medal conversation usually starts with the U.S., but that isn’t the case this year. Great Britain and Russia easily topped the Americans in qualifying, to no surprise.

The U.S., which finished between third and fifth at every Olympics and Worlds since 2007, is without its three best gymnasts from 2014 — Olympians Sam MikulakJohn Orozco and Jacob Dalton — all injured.

The depleted Americans impressed some just by qualifying for this team final (and the Olympics) by finishing in the top eight in qualifying on Monday. They were fifth, led by Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva, who also qualified fourth into Thursday’s individual all-around final.

Donnell Whittenburg, who was fourth in all-around qualifying in his Worlds debut in 2014 but tumbled to 17th in the final, will be the busiest U.S. man in the team final. The powerful Maryland native will compete on five of six events, looking to better his qualifying performance that was 4.5 points shy of his 2014 qualifying total.

MORE GYMNASTICS: World Championships broadcast schedule

Usain Bolt, sleep-deprived dad and budding cyclist, would unretire if the man in charge called

Usain Bolt
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Usain Bolt isn’t doing much running these days, but he would unretire if one person asked: longtime coach Glen Mills.

“If my coach came back and told me, let’s do this, I will, because I believe so much in my coach,” Bolt said this week in a video interview with Variety. “So I know if he says we’re going to do this, I know it’s possible. Give Glen Mills a call, and I’ll be back.”

Mills coached Bolt to eight Olympic titles and world records in the 100m (9.58 seconds) and 200m (19.19) before the Jamaican legend retired in 2017. Bolt has occasionally visited the track since, which may have been a mistake.

“My coach gets too excited when I come to the track,” Bolt said, “so I stay away.”

Bolt’s days are now spent as a father to daughter Olympia Lightning Bolt, born in May and introduced to the world via social media on Tuesday. Bolt said parenting is harder than breaking a world record.

“I got sick the first week because I was scared to fall asleep,” said Bolt, adding that he has been spit up on a few times. “So I stayed up at night just watching her because I’m a heavy sleeper. But I’ve learned that I’m going to wake. I’m going to get up no matter what. I’m getting better, and I’m learning.”

Bolt said he was unaware that Serena Williams‘ 2-year-old daughter is named Olympia (as a middle name, but she goes by Olympia) until this week’s reveal. His girlfriend, Kasi Bennett, came up with the name.

“My girlfriend, I told her, I think you’re putting a little bit of pressure on her to name her Olympia,” said Bolt, who previously said he would not encourage his child to take up sprinting. “But, we’ll see, I’m not going to force her to do anything.”

In retirement, Bolt has been seen doing a step class, riding a Peloton and playing professional soccer. Lately, he’s been road cycling with friends, upping the mileage every week.

“I have a newfound respect for cyclists because you see the Tour de France, they make it look easy. It’s not,” Bolt said.

Bolt expressed disappointment with the Olympic postponement to 2021, even though he’s not competing anymore. He does hope to be in Tokyo in some capacity. He found a silver lining.

“The only good thing about is that I actually get to take my daughter next year if the world gets back,” he said. “One of my moments is to have my first born just to walk on the track with me. That’s something that I always thought about.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Usain Bolt responds to Carl Lewis tweet

British gymnastics stars speak up about abuse amid investigation

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Decorated British gymnasts Becky and Ellie Downie spoke out about specific abuses they’ve experienced in the sport, becoming the latest athletes to come forward this week.

The Downie sisters, in social media posts on Thursday, said they’ve seen and experienced an “unsafe attitude to young girls’ weight, and the resulting mental health issues” and “dangerous consequences of over-training, which frequently was the norm, for fear of punishment or deselection.”

The comments came two days after British Gymnastics announced it launched an independent review into allegations of abuse in the sport. Before that, former British gymnasts said they were assaulted, bullied or abused by coaches.

“The behaviors we have heard about in recent days are completely contrary to our standards of safe coaching and have no place in our sport,” British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen said Tuesday. “It is clear that gymnasts did not feel they could raise their concerns to British Gymnastics, and it is vital that an independent review helps us better understand why so we can remove any barriers as quickly as possible.”

The Downie sisters are Olympians and world championships medalists.

“Over the past few days we’ve been watching our former teammates and friends bravely sharing their stories, and we can’t sit by and not offer support for them by sharing our own experiences,” they posted with the caption, “Our Story.” “Speaking out is something we’ve both felt we really needed to do for a long time now, but in truth, we’ve been afraid to do so.”

Becky Downie, the 2019 World silver medalist on uneven bars, said she was overtrained “to the point of physical breakdown” many times.

She said she was called “mentally weak” for speaking up at a national team camp and later suffered an ankle injury as a result of the unsafe training approaches. Downie required a fourth surgery on the ankle.

Ellie Downie, the 2019 World bronze medalist on vault, said she’s been made to feel ashamed of her weight for almost her entire career. That included a nutritionist telling her to submit daily photos of her in her underwear and everything she ate to ensure she wasn’t lying about her diet.

She said she was told at a national camp to lose six kilograms (13 pounds). If she hadn’t “made a dent” within two weeks, “there’d be consequences.”

The sisters said gymnasts were weighed regularly.

“We all know off by heart the weight of a bottle of water, and consequently eating and drinking the night before weigh day wasn’t worth the risk,” Ellie wrote. “To this day we still hide food for the fear of it being found.”

The Downies said there has been change since Becky Downie spoke up in 2018 about unsafe training, including the discontinuation of routine weigh-ins.

“We’re aware our contribution raises more troubling issues the sport must confront, but we truly hope it will contribute to positive change,” they wrote. “What’s clear from speaking to many different gymnasts from all over the world, this is a gymnastics culture problem, as opposed to just a national one.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: MyKayla Skinner’s motivation for Tokyo: her Rio Olympic experience