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.

MORE GYMNASTICS: Where is McKayla Maroney?

40 years ago today: Jimmy Carter lays plan for Olympic boycott

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On Jan. 20, 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter said he would not support sending a U.S. team to the Moscow Olympics later that summer if the Soviet Union did not withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Carter detailed his stance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” airing that Sunday. A transcript:

Bill Monroe: Assuming the Soviets do not pull out of Afghanistan any time soon, do you favor the U.S. participating in the Moscow Olympics, and if not, what are the alternatives?

Carter: No. Neither I nor the American people would support the sending of an American team to Moscow with Soviet invasion troops in Afghanistan. I’ve sent a message today to the United States Olympic Committee spelling out my own position that unless the Soviets withdraw their troops within a month from Afghanistan that the Olympic Games be moved from Moscow to alternate site or multiple sites or postponed or canceled. If the Soviets do not withdraw their troops immediately from Afghanistan — within a month — I would not support the sending of an American team to the Olympics. It’s very important for the world to realize how serious a threat the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan is. I do not want to inject politics into the Olympics, and I would personally favor the establishment of a permanent Olympic site for both the Summer and the Winter Games. In my opinion, the most appropriate permanent site for the Summer Games would be Greece. This will be my own position, and I have asked the U.S. Olympic Committee to take this position to the International Olympic Committee, and I would hope that as many nations as possible would support this basic position. One hundred and four nations voted against the Soviet invasion and called for their immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan in the United Nations, and I would hope as many of those as possible would support the position I’ve just outlined to you.

Monroe: Mr. President, if a substantial number of nations does not support the U.S. position, would not that just put the U.S. in an isolated position without doing much damage to the Soviet Union?

Carter: Regardless of what other nations might do, I would not favor the sending of an American Olympic team to Moscow while the Soviet invasion troops are in Afghanistan.

Three days later, Carter said in his State of the Union address, “I have notified the Olympic Committee that with Soviet invading forces in Afghanistan, neither the American people nor I will support sending an Olympic team to Moscow.”

The Soviets did not withdraw troops.

Though Carter did not have the authority to order a boycott, the U.S. Olympic Committee did decide on April 12 not to send a team.

The U.S. was among more than 60 nations that were invited to the Moscow Games and did not participate (for various reasons). Other notable absences included Canada, West Germany, Japan and China.

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With four former champions in the mix, who can claim U.S. Championships pairs’ title?

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There have been four different U.S. pairs’ champions in the past four years. All four of those teams are in the field at this week’s U.S. Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina. With that in mind, who could get the nod to compete at the world championships in March?

The U.S. has two spots to fill, thanks to the efforts of Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, who finished ninth at last year’s worlds.

Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier had the best fall of any U.S. pair, winning two bronze medals on the Grand Prix Series. Denney and Frazier finished with silver medals at last year’s national championships, too. The team has previous experience at the world championships (2015: 12th; 2017: 20th).

Cain-Gribble and LeDuc won the national title last year after a season that was nearly sidelined by Cain-Gribble’s concussion in December 2018. As the solo U.S. representatives at the world championships, they succeeded in earning back two world berths for 2020.

This season, they won two B-level competitions and finished fourth and fifth at their Grand Prix assignments. LeDuc said last week that despite their win at Golden Spin in December, “there was a little bit of room for improvement, which is exactly what we want from a competition going into nationals.”

“We feel like we’ve improved a lot as far as what we’re able to take on mentally because we know that this is going to be an intense week,” Cain-Gribble said. “We’re prepared for that. We’ve never had to do this before, where we’re coming in and we’re already the reigning champions. We’ve never come in with that title before. We’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people about it and what that feeling is, but overall their main thing was, ‘Be prepared. Prepare yourself beyond what you can even imagine. When you get there, just go on autopilot and do your thing.’”

PyeongChang Olympic team event bronze medalists Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim haven’t been in top form since the Games. Later in 2018, they split from short-lived coach Aljona Savchenko in Germany and moved to California.

They finished an all-time low of seventh at last year’s nationals and were not assigned to any events later in the season. In their off-season, Chris underwent wrist surgery. The couple also added Rafael Arutunian to their coaching team to address their jumping abilities. Their season consisted of a silver medal at a B-level competition, followed by two Grand Prix assignments where they finished fourth and seventh.

“We feel that many people probably have kind of written us off, because we’re an old married couple and we’re kind of labeled ‘can’t get it together,’” Scimeca Knierim said after finishing fourth at Skate Canada this fall. “That’s almost an advantage, because I feel like for so long, we were considered the front-runners. I still believe we are. We’re trying to show we can get it together.”

The last time the Knierims competed at a nationals in Greensboro, in 2015, they won the first of their two titles. That year, they notched their highest placement (seventh) across five total trips to the world championships.

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea won their national title in 2016 and were also sent on their only trip to the world championships where they finished 13th. In 2017, Kayne underwent knee surgery, but they returned to the national podium in 2018 and won silver. Last year, they finished fourth after a disastrous free skate.

This season, they collected a silver medals and a fourth place finish at two B-level competitions as well as a pair of sixth-place finishes on the Grand Prix.

MORE: 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

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.

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