Simone Biles, record breaker, Gabby Douglas go 1-2 in World all-around

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Simone Biles came to the World Championships without a rival the last three years. She’ll leave them peerless in gymnastics history.

Biles became the first woman to win three straight World all-around titles, prevailing by 1.083 points over Olympic champion Gabby Douglas in Glasgow, Scotland, on Thursday. It’s the largest margin of victory of her three titles.

“I just keep blowing my own mind,” Biles, who said she has a variation of that phrase as her phone background, told media in Glasgow. “If I could crawl out of my skin and see it, it would be amazing.”

And Biles did it with clear mistakes on her final two routines, nearly falling off the balance beam — “the save of the century,” her coach said — and going out of bounds on floor exercise.

“On beam, I think I gave the whole world a heart attack, as well as myself out there,” Biles said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “Then floor, I had never gone out of bounds, but I guess there is a first for everything.”

Douglas, who also struggled on beam, earned silver after taking two years off following her Olympic all-around title. Douglas is the first Olympic women’s all-around champion to come back and earn a Worlds all-around medal since 1981.

“I’ll take it,” said Douglas, who last year roomed with Biles at her first national team camp since the Olympics. “I really wanted to prove everyone that my comeback was real. It wasn’t fake. It wasn’t for the fame.”

Romania’s Larisa Iordache followed her 2014 silver medal with bronze behind the American duo that posed flexing their biceps as “American Woman” played through the arena after they finished.

Biles, 18, is arguably the greatest female gymnast of all time, and she hasn’t been to an Olympics. She was too young for London 2012, though she wasn’t considered the best U.S. junior gymnast at the time anyway.

In 2013, she started a streak of all-around victories that has now reached double digits across all competitions.

On Thursday, Biles broke U.S. records for World all-around titles (Shannon Miller also won two) and World Championships medals with her 11th (Alicia Sacramone earned 10).

She performed nearly at her best on her first two events, hitting her high-flying Amanar vault with a hop forward and sticking her dismount on uneven bars, her weak apparatus.

Then Biles lost control on a front flip on the four-inch-wide beam, needing to put both of her hands on the apparatus to keep from falling off. She scored 14.4 points, which was .566 lower than her qualifying mark. Biles has fought the beam this year, even coming to tears during training at the P&G Championships in August.

“Oh my gosh, what am I doing right now?” Biles said she thought to herself. “It was very weird.”

But Biles’ difficulty and execution on vault and her last event, floor exercise, are unmatched, which gave her the cushion going in to make a mistake and still win. For example, Biles’ vault includes one-half twist more than Douglas’ vault, which equates to an extra half-point in difficulty value.

Douglas, too, struggled on beam with several wobbles and scored a matching 14.4.

Biles is scheduled to compete three more times at Worlds, as the top qualifier into apparatus finals on vault (Saturday) and balance beam and floor exercise (Sunday). Douglas reached the eight-woman uneven bars final Saturday.

Biles and Douglas will be favored to make the five-woman U.S. Olympic team at or following the July 8-10 trials in San Jose. And Douglas isn’t satisfied with her current form.

“I’ve got to add those upgrades in and hopefully be on top,” she said in a USA Gymnastics interview.

In Rio, Biles can tie the record for combined women’s Olympic and World all-around titles of four, held by the Soviet Union’s Larisa Latynina, the second-most decorated Olympian across all sports. Douglas can become the first Olympic all-around champion to earn a medal at the following Games since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.

NBC Olympics researcher Amanda Doyle contributed to this report from Glasgow.

MORE GYMNASTICS: World Championships broadcast schedule

WOMEN’S ALL-AROUND
GOLD: Simone Biles (USA) — 60.399
SILVER: Gabby Douglas (USA) — 59.316
BRONZE: Larisa Iordache (ROU) — 59.107
4. Shang Chungsong (CHN) — 58.265
5. Giulia Steingruber (SUI) — 57.333

Olympian Tasha Schwikert says she is a Larry Nassar survivor, speaks out on Steve Penny

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Tasha Schwikert is at least the ninth Olympian to come forward as a Larry Nassar survivor.

“After months of grappling with the decision, I have decided to come forward as a victim of Larry Nassar,” was tweeted from the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Schwikert’s account. “I want to join my former teammates and fellow survivors to help enact REAL change at @USAGym and @TeamUSA. #MeToo.

“I refuse to remain a victim. It is time for @USAGym and @TeamUSA to come clean and be held accountable for the toxic environment that enabled Nassar’s abuse. Only then will we see REAL change.”

Schwikert, now 33, was the youngest woman on the 2000 Olympic team across all sports, the U.S. all-around champion in 2001 and 2002, the 2003 World champion team captain and an alternate for the 2004 Olympic team.

Schwikert also said that ex-USA Gymnastics president and CEO Steve Penny pressed her to publicly support USA Gymnastics at the height of the Nassar scandal, according to ABC’s “World News Tonight.”

Penny was arrested Wednesday and indicted on charges he tampered with evidence in the Nassar sexual-assault investigation and on Thursday banned for life from USA Gymnastics. Penny’s lawyers said he is “confident that when all the facts are known it will be shown that he did nothing criminal.”

“Steve had always manipulated all of us, really, but I felt indebted to him,” Schwikert said on ABC. “Him and USA Gymnastics made me feel like if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be the person or the athlete who I was.”

She is at least the second member of the Sydney 2000 team to come forward as a Nassar survivor, joining Jamie Dantzscher, the first Olympian to do so in February 2017.

USA Gymnastics posted a statement from Schwikert on social media the night Dantzscher’s first interview aired, saying, “As a member of the national team from 1999-2004, I firmly believe USA Gymnastics always had my health and well-being top of mind. The program provided me with the resources and experiences that helped me achieve my goals.”

Penny resigned a month later.

Seven of the eight members of the 2012 or 2016 Olympic women’s artistic gymnastics teams have also come forward — Simone BilesGabby Douglas, Aly RaismanMcKayla MaroneyJordyn WieberKyla Ross and Madison Kocian. As have world championships team members among the hundreds of girls and women who said Nassar sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment when he worked for Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue can make it 10 straight at Skate America

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If Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue ever lacked motivation in the post-Olympic summer, they needed only scan their Montreal training ice.

They would spot France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the only ice dancers from the Olympic podium who return this season. Papadakis and Cizeron relegated the Americans to silver at March’s world championships, one month after Hubbell and Donohue were fourth in PyeongChang (the French took silver). They have trained under the same coaches in Quebec for three years.

They would also see Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, the third- and fourth-place finishers from January’s U.S. Championships. Those couples moved to the Montreal group in the spring. They are Hubbell and Donohue’s top threats to repeat as national champions in Detroit in three months, given U.S. silver medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani are also taking a break.

Practicing next to rivals is often shunned in sports. It has elevated ice dance the last several years.

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White trained together in Michigan and split the Olympic gold and silver medals in 2010 and 2014.

When Virtue and Moir returned from a two-year break in 2016, they joined the Montreal group and went one-two with training partners Papadakis and Cizeron at every major competition through PyeongChang.

Hubbell and Donohue thrived last season, their third in Montreal, winning their first national title after six straight years of finishing third or fourth. They were in position for an Olympic medal, third after the short dance, but Donohue fell in the free dance (as he did at 2017 Worlds after they were third in the short).

Then at worlds in March, they delivered back-to-back podium-worthy performances on the global stage for the first time for that silver medal. They are the world No. 2 and the favorites at this weekend’s Skate America, with the French not in the field.

U.S. couples have won nine straight Skate Americas, more than the other three disciplines combined in the last decade.

MORE: Skate America TV/Stream Schedule

“Clearly this formula is working for them,” NBC Sports analyst and 2006 Olympic ice dance silver medalist Tanith White said. “It has proven to work for many of the greatest teams in ice dance over the last few decades. … I cannot see a drawback.”

Hubbell and Donohue (and Papadakis and Cizeron) appear to agree.

They joked back and forth at a press conference after worlds in March. Asked how they would spend the offseason, Cizeron looked straight at Hubbell and Donohue and said, jokingly, “Our goal is to get drunk together as many times as we can.”

“As much as our own personal accomplishment is pretty incredible, being on the podium with training mates and having, literally, everyone from our training center skate the best programs of their season, all at the same competition, was pretty incredible,” Donohue said last week.

Hubbell and Donohue should breeze through Skate America in Everett, Wash. Nobody else from the top nine in PyeongChang is in the field. They’re the favorites next week at Skate Canada, too.

The first real test will be at December’s Grand Prix Final, where Papadakis and Cizeron should join them. Hubbell and Donohue never outscored the French in nine head-to-head competitions and were more than 10 points adrift at worlds.

“The French, where they left off last season, I think that they are still in a category on their own based on the last time we saw those two teams go up against each other,” White said. 

Hubbell said the world silver medal showed that they had tackled their demons, fear and history of errors. If the next goal is gold, they must conquer a much more visible foe, one they see every day on the ice.

“The podium at worlds,” Hubbell said, “was the moment I was able to leave that season behind me and go into the future.”

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