Kohei Uchimura rolls to sixth straight World all-around title over surprise runner-up

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Kohei Uchimura fell in qualifying. He crashed to the mat in the team final. But in the all-around, the competition he owns, Uchimura stayed on his feet and in a class by himself.

The Japanese icon extended his record with a sixth straight dominant World all-around title in Glasgow, Scotland, on Friday. No other gymnast — man or woman — has won more than three titles.

Does Uchimura believe he is the greatest of all time?

“Uchimura doesn’t consider himself to be the best gymnast in the world, even though he win a lot of medals in the World Championships,” he said through a translator.

Uchimura prevailed by a comfortable 1.634 points over Manrique Larduet, whose silver medal matched the best finish for a Cuban in any Olympic or World Championships gymnastics event. A Cuban gymnast had not competed at an Olympics or Worlds since 2004.

Larduet, the 19-year-old Pan American Games silver medalist in his Worlds debut, also became the youngest men’s World all-around medalist since Fabian Hambuechen in 2006.

“It has been a dream of mine ever since I was little,” said Larduet, who listened to Lil Wayne between routines. “I also want to be the first Cuban gymnast with an Olympic medal, and I’m going to start working on that right now.”

China’s Deng Shudi earned bronze.

Americans Donnell Whittenburg and Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva were eighth and 17th in the 24-man field. Whittenburg was 31st in qualifying and didn’t make the final until another gymnast withdrew earlier Friday. Leyva fell on floor exercise and high bar and nearly fell off pommel horse.

Uchimura’s closest margin of victory among his other five World titles and his 2012 Olympic title was 1.492 points over Great Britain’s Max Whitlock last year.

Whitlock began with a 16.1 on pommel horse Friday, the highest score on the event at an Olympics or Worlds since 2009, but fell off high bar in the fifth rotation and out of the medals. He was fifth.

Uchimura showed no clear mistakes with nothing more than small hops on landings on his first five events, an improvement after he fell on floor exercise in qualifying Sunday and on high bar in the team final Wednesday.

His biggest mistake was a slightly clumsy release move on high bar on his last routine. Still, he walked off the mat raising his arms to the crowd.

He expressed satisfaction with post-routine fist pumps and broke into a grin after his penultimate exercise, a 15.833 on parallel bars, his best score of the night that all but sealed gold.

Uchimura now owns 18 World Championships medals, including nine golds. Belarus’ Vitaly Scherbo, whom Uchimura has called the greatest of all time, won 23 Worlds medals, including 12 golds. Scherbo, who won six gold medals at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics, also owns twice as many Olympic medals as Uchimura — 10 to five.

Scherbo, who runs a gym in Las Vegas, weighed in on Uchimura in April.

The World Championships continue with apparatus finals Saturday and Sunday, featuring Simone BilesGabby Douglas and Uchimura.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air World Championships coverage Saturday from 2:30-4 p.m. ET and Sunday from 12-1:30 p.m. ET, with Al Trautwig and Olympic champions Tim Daggett and Nastia Liukin.

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

MORE GYMNASTICS: World Championships broadcast schedule

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Alysa Liu repeats as U.S. figure skating champion at age 14

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Alysa Liu repeated as U.S. figure skating champion, continuing her build toward the 2022 Beijing Olympics by becoming the first woman to land a quadruple jump (albeit under-rotated) at the national championships.

Liu, who last year became the youngest U.S. champion in history at 13, rallied from a short-program deficit to distance Mariah Bell by 10.31 points in Greensboro, N.C. Liu became the first repeat women’s champion since Ashley Wagner in 2013, performing under pressure as the last skater going after Bell brought the house down.

“I was like, wow,” Liu said of Bell. “I was kind of clapping along with the crowd. I guess I was kind of inspired by her emotion and her happiness. I guess that inspired me at the end of my program to relax and be happy and just kind of be aware of the moment.”

Bradie Tennell, the short-program leader, dropped to third after falling on a triple loop.

The night’s emotional moment occurred two hours earlier. Gracie Gold, in her first nationals in three years, was brought to tears after coming back from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety.

“The full arena pulling for my existence, like, on the ice,” said Gold, who finished 12th, lacking the most difficult jumping combinations but determined to continue next season. “I want everything now when I demand it, but I have to remind myself of that it is a progression. And next, we just kind of keep the train going.”

More on Gold’s night here.

Nationals continue Saturday with the pairs’ free skate, free dance and the men’s short program, live on NBC Sports.

NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

Liu nailed a pair of triple Axels — as she did last year — and (barely) an under-rotated quad Lutz in her free skate. No other active U.S. senior woman has landed either of those jumps in competition. At least one is necessary to contend with the world’s best — Russians competing at the European Championships this week.

Liu is too young to compete on the senior international level until the 2022 Olympic season. She ranks third in the world among junior skaters this season, behind two Russians, going into March’s junior world championships.

Bell, the oldest skater in the last group at 23, had her best nationals result after bronze medals in 2017 and 2019. She skated clean with seven triple jumps, much to the delight of her coaches at rink level — Rafael Arutunian and Olympian Adam Rippon.

Tennell, who couldn’t bend one of her arms on Wednesday, fell on the last of her 10 jumps in the free skate, a triple loop.

For the second straight year, Tennell topped the nationals short program, fell in the free skate and dropped down the podium. Stunning given Tennell broke through in the 2017-18 season as the only elite international skater without a fall going into the Olympics.

Bell and Tennell, the 2018 U.S. champion, will likely make up March’s senior world team for a second straight year. A U.S. Figure Skating committee makes that decision.

Earlier, Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance with 87.63 points, taking a 1.32-point lead over two-time defending champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue going into Saturday’s free dance. They could become the first U.S. skater, couple or pair to go five years between national titles in many decades.

Chock and Bates came out of the Sochi Olympics as the top U.S. couple, succeeding Meryl Davis and Charlie White. But they fell behind both Hubbell and Donohue and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani going into the PyeongChang Olympics.

After that, Chock underwent ankle surgery. The couple moved from Michigan to Montreal. They now train with Hubbell and Donohue and world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

“We’re just finding our groove right now,” Bates said. “It feels like we’re just having a bit of a renaissance with our career.”

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MORE: Vincent Zhou put Ivy League classes on hold to return to figure skating

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Gracie Gold in tears at figure skating nationals after emotional comeback

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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Gracie Gold received a standing ovation from the crowd inside the Greensboro Coliseum after her free skate Friday night. It was her first nationals performance in three years after time away from the sport to treat depression, anxiety and an eating disorder.

“Truthfully, I was almost so overwhelmed that I was just very much existing in the moment because I couldn’t exist anywhere else,” she said of being brought to tears at center ice when her program concluded. “Then, obviously, the audience reaction I felt like was very powerful.”

Gold has received other standing ovations in the past, at the conclusions of her two national title-winning free skates in 2014 and 2016.

“It reminded me a little bit more of 2014, where, yes, I had skated well but people were also standing because it was semi-clear that I had won aka I had qualified for the Olympics,” she said. “People were up before the end. It had that kind of energy where even as I was getting into the knee slide, it felt like it got bigger. Obviously, the skating didn’t warrant a full-arena standing ‘O.’ It didn’t.”

She was 13th after Thursday’s short program and 12th overall in a field of 18 skaters. In her free skate, set to Sara Bareilles’ “She Used to be Mine,” Gold landed four triple jumps but several planned triples ended up doubles or singles.

Eagle-eyed fans might have noticed a moth tattoo peaking out of her costume. She explained that she got it during her retirement, and it had a special meaning.

“It’s representative of a moment that I had in treatment with some of the other girls,” she said. “We were discussing tattoos, and a lot of them had different ink. One had had a skull, and she was gonna change it into a moth. I asked her, why a moth? She said, ‘It’s because they always find the light.’ I kid you not, a large black moth came and landed in the middle of our table and didn’t move. So, in retirement, I of course found my way into a tattoo parlor. And yes, now I have a piece.”

Audiences haven’t seen the last of her, she said. Gold isn’t finished with the comeback and has plans to skate next season.

“I think we’ve earned that,” she said.

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.