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?

Pole vaulter, 84, sets her sights on more records

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BURLINGTON, Vt. — An 84-year-old pole vaulter isn’t putting her pole down anytime soon.

Flo Filion Meiler left Thursday for the World Masters Athletics Championship Indoor in Poland, where she’ll compete in events including the long jump, 60-meter hurdles, 800-meter run, pentathlon and pole vault, for which she’s the shoo-in.

The petite, energetic woman from Shelburne, Vermont, said she feels more like 70 than nearly 85.

“But you know, I do train five days a week. And when I found out I was going to compete at the worlds, I’ve been training six days a week because I knew I would really get my body in shape,” she said last week, after track and field training at the University of Vermont.

But she literally won’t have any competition in the pole vault in the championships, which runs March 24-31 in Torun, Poland. She is the only one registered in her age group, 80-84, for the sport, for which she set a world record at age 80. In the men’s pole vault, nine men are listed as competing in that age group.

Meiler said she the events she likes the best are the hurdles and the pole vault – one of the more daring track and field events, in which competitors run while carrying a fiberglass or composite pole, brace it against the ground to launch themselves over a high bar, and land on a mat.

“You really have to work at that,” she said. “You have to have the upper core and you have to have timing, and I just love it because it’s challenging.”

Meiler is used to hard work. She grew up on a dairy farm, where she helped her father with the chores, feeding the cattle and raking hay. In school, she did well at basketball, took tap and ballroom dancing, and, living near Lake Champlain, she water skied.

Meiler, who worked for 30 years as a sales representative for Herbalife nutritional supplements, and her husband, Eugene, who was a military pilot and then became a financial analyst, together competed in water skiing.

“Many times when I did water ski competition I was the only gal in my age group,” she said.

She’s a relative newcomer to pole vaulting and track and field, overall. At age 60, she was competing in doubles tennis with her husband in a qualifying year at the Vermont Senior Games when a friend encouraged her to try the long jump because competitors were needed.

“That was the beginning of my track career,” she said, standing in a room of her home, surrounded by hundreds of hanging medals. She took up pole vaulting at 65.

Athletics has helped her though some hard times, she said. She and her husband adopted three children after losing two premature biological babies and a 3-year-old. Two years ago, their son died at age 51.

And she desperately misses her training partner, a woman who started having health problems about five years ago and can no longer train. It’s tough to train alone, she said, and she hopes to find a new partner.

“She’s incredibly serious about what she does,” said Meiler’s coach, Emmaline Berg. “She comes in early to make sure she’s warmed up enough. She goes home and stretches a lot. So she pretty much structures her entire life around being a fantastic athlete, which is remarkable at any age, let alone hers.”

And it has paid off, said Berg, an assistant track coach at Vermont.

Berg herself first started following Meiler 10 years ago while she was a student at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth College, watching her at the annual Dartmouth Relays.

“She was like a local celebrity,” she said.

Setting a record at age 80 with a 6-foot (1.8-meter) pole vault at the USA Track and Field Adirondack Championships in Albany, New York, while her husband watched, Meiler said, was one of her happiest days.

“I was screaming, I was so happy,” she said.

The overall world record for women’s pole vaulting is 16.6 feet (5.6 meters), according to the International Association of Athletics Federations.

Meiler turns 85 in June, when she’ll head to the National Senior Games in New Mexico.

That will put her in a new age group, in which she hopes to set even more records.

Meiler’s athletic achievements are remarkable and something to be celebrated, said Dr. Michael LaMantia, director of the University of Vermont Center on Aging.

Pole vaulting clearly isn’t for everyone of her age, but in general, activity should be, LaMantia said.

“She can serve as a role model for other seniors,” he said.

Amateur boxing president steps aside during IOC inquiry

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — With Olympic boxing under investigation by the IOC, the president of the sport’s governing body said on Friday he was stepping aside to let an interim leader take charge.

Gafur Rakhimov sai d he was not resigning as AIBA president, however, and did not call for new elections.

Rakhimov’s status on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list as an alleged heroin trafficker is part of an inquiry by an International Olympic Committee-appointed panel.

The panel will update the IOC executive board next week in Lausanne, Switzerland. AIBA could be derecognized by IOC members in June.

The IOC halted planning for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic boxing tournaments and blocked AIBA officials from contacting organizers in Japan.

“The allegations against me were fabricated and based on politically motivated lies,” Rakhimov said. “I trust that the truth will prevail. Nevertheless, I have always said that I would never put myself above boxing, and as president, I have a duty to do everything in my power to serve our sport and our athletes.”

Under AIBA statutes, an interim president is picked from among the five vice-presidents, who include several Rakhimov supporters. The executive committee is due to meet by telephone this weekend. The interim leader can serve only a maximum 365 days before fresh elections, however, meaning that arrangement can’t last through to the Tokyo Olympics.

When Rakhimov was elected last year, his supporters pushed for a plan to allow the president to step aside while still retaining key influence and being able to return at any time, but that was defeated.

It’s not clear if Rakhimov’s departure would be enough to calm the IOC, which has also criticized AIBA over how fights are judged, anti-doping measures, and its debts.

The IOC could try to host an Olympic boxing tournament without AIBA, and some national boxing officials have tried to form a group which could help the IOC stage the event.