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Danell Leyva: Olympic all-around was ‘unfair’

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U.S. gymnast Danell Leyva felt for Oleg Verniaiev after the Ukrainian finished a controversial second in the Rio Olympic all-around, .099 behind Japan’s Kohei Uchimura.

“What they did in the all-around was super unfair,” Leyva said on the Gymcastic podcast (10-minute mark). “I sincerely just feel like Oleg outperformed Uchimura in a couple of different events, in most events. We all know how political gymnastics is. I guess they were probably just like, yeah, we’ve got to give it to Uchi because it’s Uchi.”

Uchimura became the first gymnast to repeat as Olympic all-around champion in 44 years, adding to his collection that includes the last six world all-around titles.

Uchimura went into the sixth and final Olympic all-around rotation trailing Verniaiev by .901. They both went on high bar, one of Uchimura’s best events. Uchimura outscored Verniaiev by a full point to take the come-from-behind title.

Leyva did not do the all-around in Rio after taking bronze behind Uchimura in London. He criticized high bar scoring at the Rio Games, saying others did amazing routines and received low scores. But he was OK with it, because everybody was getting judged the same way (strictly).

Until Uchimura.

The Japanese fell on high bar in qualifying and scored a 14.3, among the bottom half of scores for the 24 men who made the all-around final. In the team final, Uchimura scored 15.166. In the all-around final, he scored 15.8, the best high bar score of the Games across qualifying and finals.

German Fabian Hambuechen won the high bar event final with a 15.766, while Leyva took silver with a 15.5.

“It’s like he’s in a different competition,” Leyva, who also took Rio parallel bars silver behind Verniaiev, said of Uchimura’s high bar scores. “Everybody is getting judged incredibly strict like that, OK, whatever. Then Uchi went, and his routine wasn’t that great, like it wasn’t perfect at all, and they gave him a near-perfect score. And it’s just like but no, because the other people.”

Verniaiev did not dispute the all-around results in the press conference after the event and was effusive of Uchimura, calling him a legend.

MORE: British Olympic medalist gymnast suspended after Islam video

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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