In Kohei Uchimura’s absence, a breakthrough world all-around champ

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In the absence of the King, China’s Xiao Ruoteng rose to win his first world championships all-around medal — gold in Montreal on Thursday night.

Xiao, a 21-year-old who was not on China’s Olympic team, came from nearly six tenths behind in the final rotation to overtake Russian David Belyavskiy for the title.

Belyavskiy opened the door by falling on his last routine on high bar, dropping to fourth place, just where he finished in Rio.

The 25-year-old also placed sixth at the 2011 Worlds, fifth at the 2012 Olympics and fifth at the 2014 Worlds. He has never won an Olympic or world all-around medal.

“I only thought of doing the [high bar] exercise from A to Z, without any faults, without the fall, but it happened,” Belyavskiy told media in Montreal. “Maybe I’m just lacking some luck.”

Xiao tallied 86.933 points to become the first Chinese gymnast to take gold since Yang Wei at the 2008 Olympics.

China actually went one-two at the 1976 Olympic Stadium, with Lin Chaopan taking silver with 86.448. Japan’s Kenzo Shirai edged Belyavskiy for bronze.

China redeemed after its worst-ever Olympic men’s gymnastics medal output in Rio — a lone bronze in the team event.

Uchimura, who won every Olympic and world title from 2009 through 2016, withdrew with a left ankle injury in qualifying on Monday. Xiao refused to speculate what would have happened Thursday if Uchimura was in the final.

“Gymnastics is something that you compete with yourself, not against each other,” he said. “So it’s more about doing my best, not considering other competitors.”

Shirai, a 21-year-old roommate of Uchimura, did speculate.

“I feel that if Uchimura was competing today, I would be fourth place,” said Shirai, who was competing in his first major international all-around competition. Before this year, Shirai was a floor exercise and vault specialist — arguably best in the world on both events.

U.S. champion Yul Moldauer was seventh in the 24-man field, competing in his first world championships.

“I hit six for six [routines], and I couldn’t have asked for a better meet,” said Moldauer, a rising University of Oklahoma junior formerly coached by 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Sasha Artemev. “I just need to start building my reputation. … Hopefully, next year, I can be in the top three.”

No American man has earned a world all-around medal since Jonathan Horton‘s bronze in 2010.

Favorite Oleg Verniaiev of Ukraine fell off both pommel horse and high bar, finishing eighth.

Verniaiev took silver in Rio, just .099 behind Uchimura.

Worlds continue with the women’s all-around final on Friday at 7 p.m. ET, live on The Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on Olympicchannel.com and the Olympic Channel app.

The men return for apparatus finals on Saturday and Sunday, including Moldauer on floor exercise.

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Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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