Four-way tie for gold medal(s) at World Gymnastics Championships

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Four women tied for the gold medal(s) in the World Championships uneven bars final on Saturday.

American Madison Kocian, Russians Viktoria Komova and Daria Spiridonova and China’s Fan Yilin all scored 15.366 points in Glasgow, Scotland.

It’s the first four-way tie in Worlds or Olympics history, according to the International Gymnastics Federation. Ties are broken at the Olympics, but not in this case at the World Championships.

Organizers had gold medals for all four gymnasts. For the medal ceremony, three anthems were played with flags being held by officials rather than raised in the arena.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, and I didn’t really think anything like this would even be possible,” Spiridonova said.

MORE: Komova apologizes to U.S. gymnasts for steroid comments

Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas was the next highest finisher in fifth place with a 15.133.

Kocian, 18 and at her second Worlds, boosted her hopes of making the 2016 U.S. Olympic team by excelling on the U.S. women’s weakest event. She said she debated after 2014 Worlds between going straight to college, usually signaling the end of elite gymnastics careers, or having wrist surgery. She chose the latter.

“I had so much pain,” Kocian said. “I could barely hold onto the bar. The medal now definitely lights extra fire in me to keep going.”

All-around gymnasts Simone Biles, Douglas, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman‘s performances at competitions throughout this season had already made them strong hopes to be named to the five-woman team at or following the July 8-10 Olympic trials in San Jose.

Nichols, at 18 years old, would be the youngest member of that team. If the U.S. women’s team at Rio 2016 is that quintet, it will mark the first time since 1952 that no women younger than age 17 were on the team, according to sports-reference.

Earlier Saturday, three-time World all-around champion Biles earned her third straight Worlds medal on vault, a bronze.

Biles averaged 15.541 for two vaults (video here), falling .125 short of Russian Maria Paseka‘s winning score. North Korea’s Hong Un-Jong took silver.

Biles bagged silver on vault at her first two Worlds in 2013 and 2014, behind McKayla Maroney and Hong, respectively.

On Saturday, she scored 15.9 on her first attempt, taking a hop forward on her landing on the difficult Amanar. She scored lower on her second, also hopping on her landing for a 15.183. That vault scored much lower because it was much less difficult — seven tenths less in start value than her Amanar.

Paseka and Hong both had a combined eight tenths more in difficulty than Biles, though the American was much stronger in execution. Biles has said she plans to upgrade her vault difficulty before Rio 2016.

“My second vault, which is my more difficult vault, wasn’t ready yet,” Biles said. “[U.S. national team coordinator] Martha [Karolyi] said, ‘It’s fine, just do what you can do and see what happens.’ So it’s just an honor that I even got on the podium.”

She is the defending champion on both finals on the last day of competition Sunday, on the balance beam and floor exercise. Biles is one gold medal shy of the women’s Worlds record of 10 shared by Larissa LatyninaGina Gogean and Svetlana Khorkina.

Also Saturday, Great Britain’s Max Whitlock and Louis Smith went one-two on pommel horse. Whitlock edged Smith by one tenth of a point and captured the first Worlds gold by a British man. Smith, who sat out 2013 and didn’t compete at 2014 Worlds, earned his eighth Olympic or Worlds medal — none gold.

Japan’s Kenzo Shirai delivered as favorite by winning his second World title on floor exercise in the last three years with a 16.233, well ahead of silver medalist’s Whitlock’s 15.566.

It marked the second largest margin of victory in an Olympic or Worlds apparatus final under the Code of Points implemented in 2006 (He Kexin, uneven bars, 2009 Worlds, 1.125).

Greece’s Eleftherios Petrounias won still rings gold, his first Olympic or Worlds medal of any color, with 15.8 points over China’s You Hao (15.733) and Liu Yang (15.700).

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.

MORE GYMNASTICS: Where is McKayla Maroney?

Chock, Bates charge to second U.S. title; Hubbell, Donohue charge the wrong way

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Evan Bates, who had just won his second U.S. ice dance title with partner Madison Chock, put it best.

“Ice dance is a strange sport in some ways,” he said.

Chock and Bates have had their share of unusual mishaps in their near 10-year career, but on Saturday night at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, everything was smooth sailing.

The couple’s exotic “Egyptian Snake Dance” free dance went off without a hitch, gaining the highest possible levels for nearly all of its elements and impressing judges with its intricacy, synchronization and striking lifts. It earned 134.23 points, giving the Montreal-based team the win with 221.86.

“It was (our coach Marie-France Dubreuil’s) idea for me to be a snake, and Evan a traveler who finds me,” Chock said of the routine. “It was just such a fun process, cool new characters for us to dive into, and we’ve really been enjoying it. It shows when we skate.”

Greensboro has been lucky for the skaters, who teamed up in 2011; they won their first U.S. title here in 2015. The five-year title gap is the longest in history for U.S. ice dance champions.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said with a breezy laugh. “It feels so much has changed, and in us as people as well (as dancers). We’re in a very good place, we could not be happier with the way the season has been going.”

If Chock’s humor was lighthearted, Madison Hubbell’s can only be described grim.

Hubbell and her partner, Zach Donohue, trailed their long-time rivals and Montreal training partners by about 1.3 points following Friday’s rhythm dance. A stellar outing of their Star is Born free dance might have won a third consecutive U.S. title; instead, it became a living nightmare.

“Out of the first element, the dance spin, we got turned around somehow and came out the wrong direction,” Hubbell said. “The next four elements, which are pretty valuable elements, all were facing the wrong direction.”

(Video available here for NBC Sports Gold subscribers; Hubbell and Donohue skate at the 1:06:50 mark.)

Not until their fifth element, a step sequence, did the skaters get back on track. In between, there was a world of hurt, likely unnoticed by many members of the audience but readily apparent to the judges, who had seen the free dance in  practice.

“Our twizzle sequence, it’s a high-scoring element, is supposed to charge right at the judges, and today it charged away from them,” Hubbell said. “In the rotational life, there’s a large leg flare that looks very cool going the opposite direction, and today I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

The score was far from disastrous; Hubbell and Donohue’s 130.88 points for their “wrong-way” free dance gave them 217.19 overall. But it was a missed opportunity to show judges, and fans, the improvements they had made to A Star Is Born since the Grand Prix Final in December.

“It was probably one of the hardest performances, and not the most enjoyable,” Hubbell said. “It was a really thoughtful focus on the elements, and somehow putting one portion of the brain aside to fix things as best we could.”

The silver medal was Hubbell and Donohue’s first. They also won bronze medals in 2012, and 2015-17.

Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, whose rhythm dance to Saturday Night Fever stole the show on Friday, felt their Flamenco-style free dance didn’t pack the same punch.

“Yesterday was such a high for us, in terms of (audience) reaction and performance, that tonight didn’t have the same euphoria when we finished,” Hawayek said. “Both Jean-Luc and I see the potential for it being much higher than what we were able to put out today.”

Despite the disappointment, the third team in the Montreal troika earned 118.57 points and won a second consecutive bronze medal with 201.16.

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Coco Gauff eliminated from Australian Open by Sofia Kenin

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Coco Gauff‘s run at the Australian Open ended in the round of 16, foiled by fellow American Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Kenin ousted the 15-year-old phenom 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff, too, was bidding for her first major quarterfinal after a sterling seven months ignited by her march to the Wimbledon fourth round.

Gauff, ranked No. 684 this time last year, will near the top 50 after the Australian Open. She beat Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and took out defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round on Friday.

Gauff’s play catapulted her to fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying, but she has half the points as fourth-place Madison Keys, and a country can’t qualify more than four players in singles. The Olympic field will be determined by the WTA rankings after the French Open in June.

The 14th seed Kenin, who beat Serena Williams in the 2019 French Open third round, ranks second behind Williams in U.S. Olympic qualifying. She will face No. 27 Wang Qiang or Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.

Kenin and Alison Riske are the two remaining U.S. women in the draw.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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