Simone Biles
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Simone Biles sweeps balance beam, floor exercise, breaks Worlds record

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Simone Biles tied and broke the record for women’s World Gymnastics Championships gold medals in about 90 minutes on Sunday.

Biles, already with team and all-around titles in Glasgow, Scotland, swept the balance beam and floor exercise on the final day of competition as the U.S. finished with 10 medals and five golds, most among all nations. Her best friend on the team, Maggie Nichols, was the floor bronze medalist.

“We did a lot of good things out here, more good than bad, but we still have some areas to clean up,” Biles said in a USA Gymnastics interview.

Biles won those four titles at Worlds for a second straight year, giving her 10 career Worlds gold medals among 14 overall, both U.S. records.

That broke the all-nations women’s golds record of nine previously shared by the Soviet Union’s Larisa Latynina, Romania’s Gina Gogean and Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina.

The overall record is held by Belarus’ Vitaly Scherbo, who captured 23 medals and 12 golds.

Biles, 18, is now set up to be predicted to win four gold medals at the Rio Olympics, which no gymnast has done since Scherbo took six at Barcelona 1992. The last woman to do so was Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo at Los Angeles 1984, an Olympics boycotted by the strong Soviet Union.

Biles became the first woman to win three straight solo World titles on floor exercise, scoring 15.8 points with unmatched difficulty, execution and height on her tumbling passes.

Her margin of victory (seven tenths) was the largest in the event at a Worlds or Olympics since the perfect-10 scoring system was thrown out in 2006.

“I wanted to end with a bang,” Biles said. My mom takes my medals from me and puts them in a safe, and I do not know the combination.”

The 4-foot-9 model of power and precision also became the first woman to win three straight Worlds medals on balance beam. Again, none of the other seven women in the final bettered her difficulty or execution.

Biles repeated as champion in the event with the second-largest winning margin (1.025) in any Olympic/Worlds individual event since the perfect-10 was axed.

She had one clear beam wobble, lifting one of her legs off the four-inch-wide apparatus to regain balance, stuck her landing and notched her highest beam score ever at Worlds, a 15.358. That earned her a pat on the head from U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi.

“The highlight of these championships is my beam,” said Biles, who rebounded after nearly falling off the beam in the all-around Thursday. “If I was told that I would be two-time (World) beam champion, I wouldn’t have believed it before.”

Also Saturday, Japanese icon Kohei Uchimura matched Biles with his 10th career Worlds gold, prevailing on high bar ahead of American Danell Leyva. Uchimura, 26, now owns 19 Worlds medals and earned three golds at one Worlds for the first time in his career.

“The kind of competition that Kohei puts up there is obviously unique, it’s legendary,” Leyva, who earned his fifth career Worlds medal, said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “There’s nothing I could do.”

Romania’s Marian Dragulescu nearly tied the record for most World titles on one apparatus in the vault final. The 34-year-old out of retirement earned silver, falling short of a fifth vault gold to North Korea’s Ri Se Gwang, who repeated as World champion.

After his vaults, Dragulescu celebrated his average score (15.4) by running while waving his arms like an airplane, wearing a shirt with a picture of himself and an advertisement for his official Facebook page and taking photos with a selfie stick.

American Donnell Whittenburg earned his first individual Worlds medal with a vault bronze.

China’s Hao You took parallel bars gold with a 16.215. Leyva, the 2011 World champion and 2014 silver medalist, finished sixth.

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At U.S. Open swim meet, teens make a splash with Olympic trials on horizon

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While Olympic and world champions Katie LedeckySimone Manuel and Chase Kalisz notched expected victories at the U.S. Open on Thursday, a trio of teenagers lowered personal bests to further establish their Tokyo Olympic hopes.

At the top domestic meet of the winter, Alex WalshCarson Foster and Kieran Smith each earned runner-up finishes, but their performances stood out in the big picture: looking at June’s Olympic trials, where the top two per individual event make the team.

Walsh, a rising Nashville high school senior, took 2.23 seconds off her 200m individual medley best. She clocked 2:09.01, overtaken by .17 by Melanie Margalis, the Rio Olympic and 2019 World Championships fourth-place finisher.

Full meet results are here.

Walsh moved from fifth-fastest in the U.S. this year to No. 2 behind Margalis, passing Olympic and world championships veterans Ella EastinKathleen Baker and Madisyn Cox. Of those swimmers, only Eastin was also in Thursday’s final.

Walsh joined her younger sister, Gretchen, in Olympic qualifying position based on 2019 times. Gretchen, 16, ranks fourth in the U.S. in the 100m free this year. The top six in that event at trials are in line to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool.

The Walshes could become the third set of sisters to make the same U.S. Olympic swim team, and the second to do it in pool swimming after Dana and Tara Kirk in 2004.

Foster, 18, continued his ascent Thursday in taking second to Kalisz in the men’s 200m IM. The world junior champion lowered his personal best in the prelims and the final, getting down to 1:57.59. Foster passed Ryan Lochte, who is nearly twice his age, in Thursday’s final and in the 2019 U.S. rankings. Only Kalisz and Michael Andrew have been faster among Americans this year.

Foster is trying to become the youngest U.S. Olympic male swimmer since 2000, when a 15-year-old Michael Phelps made his Olympic debut. Foster, who has been breaking Phelps national age-group records since he was 10, committed to the University of Texas in March 2018, two years before he graduates high school in Ohio.

Then there’s Kieran Smith, now a prime candidate to fill a huge void in the 400m freestyle. Zane Grothe is the only American ranked in the top 20 in the world this year.

Smith, a 19-year-old from the University of Florida, took 2.29 seconds off his lifetime best on Thursday to jump from outside the top 10 to No. 2 in the U.S. on the year. Smith was already ranked No. 2 in the country in the 200m free.

Two more runners-up in the 50m freestyles — Erika Brown to Manuel and Zach Apple to Brazilian Bruno Fratus — lowered personal bests to move to No. 3 in each U.S. ranking list this year.

The U.S. Open continues Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. ET with live coverage on NBCSN and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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Nathan Chen distances Yuzuru Hanyu in Grand Prix Final short program

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A brilliant Nathan Chen outscored a flawed Yuzuru Hanyu for a fourth straight head-to-head program, taking a 12.95-point lead at the Grand Prix Final in Turin, Italy, on Thursday.

Chen, the two-time reigning world champion, tallied 110.38 points going into Saturday’s free skate. He landed a quadruple Lutz, triple Axel and quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination.

It’s the highest short program score in the world this season, leading the American to say “wow” in the kiss-and-cry area. His coach, the often-gruff Rafael Arutyunyan, banged his knee against his pupil’s.

Hanyu, the two-time reigning Olympic champion, hit a quadruple Salchow and triple Axel but then stepped out of a quad toe landing. He therefore failed to include a required jumping combination and ended up in second place.

“I wanted to do a great performance and do a good competition against [Chen], but that didn’t happen this time,” Hanyu, who was without longtime coach Brian Orser, or any other coach, said through a translator. Hanyu said Orser was busy last week, so he chose to use his lone accreditation on another coach who had travel delays.

Hanyu is not out of title contention. His world-leading free skate score this season is 16.61 points better than Chen’s best free skate from the fall Grand Prix Series.

Chen is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics, but this is just his second head-to-head with Hanyu in that span. Chen defeated Hanyu at March’s world championships, where the Japanese megastar was likely affected by an ankle injury.

After Thursday’s program, Chen repeated what he said before the competition: he still feels like he’s chasing Hanyu.

“Yuzu is like the goat, he’s the greatest of all time, really,” Chen said. “So, to have this opportunity to be able to share the ice with a guy like that, someone that I’ve looked up to for a long time, someone that I’ve watched grow up through the junior ranks when I was like a baby, it’s really cool to be able see him now. It’s really cool to even just be able to see him person.”

The Grand Prix Final, the biggest annual event outside the world championships, continues Friday with the rhythm dance, women’s short and pairs’ free skate. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Earlier in pairs, Chinese Sui Wenjing and Han Cong took their first step toward a first Grand Prix Final title. The Olympic silver medalists tallied 77.50, leading Russians Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitriy Kozlovskiy by .85 going into Friday’s free skate.

Sui and Han were imperfect, with Sui putting her hand down on a throw triple flip landing. They are undefeated in this Beijing Olympic cycle and own the world’s top total score this season.

The U.S. failed to qualify a pair for the six-team Final for the 11th time in the last 12 years.

Grand Prix Final
Men’s Short Program
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 110.38
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 97.43
3. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 96.71
4. Dmitriy Aliyev (RUS) — 88.78
5. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 81.32
6. Jin Boyang (CHN) — 80.67

Pairs’ Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 77.50
2. Aleksandra Boikova / Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 76.65
3. Daria Pavliuchenko/Denis Khodykin (RUS) — 75.16
4. Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (RUS) — 71.48
5. Peng Cheng/Jin Yang (CHN) — 69.67
6. Kirsten Moore-Towers/Michael Marinaro (CAN) — 67.08

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