Morgan Hurd wins shock world all-around title

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Morgan Hurd was the U.S.’ only hope. She was up to the task.

The 16-year-old in glasses won the U.S.’ seventh straight Olympic or world all-around title in Montreal on Friday night.

She followed the likes of Jordyn Wieber, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles.

Hurd did so after U.S. champion Ragan Smith withdrew minutes before the competition with an ankle injury.

Hurd did so after finishing sixth at the P&G Championships in August and sneaking onto the four-woman world team at a September selection camp.

Hurd did so after going into the final rotation, floor exercise, two tenths of a point behind Canadian Ellie Black. Black, fifth in Rio, was the overwhelming crowd favorite at the 1976 Olympic Stadium.

Hurd edged Black by one tenth of a point overall. Russia’s Elena Eremina took bronze in a competition that lacked the top four finishers from Rio.

“I was just so honored to be even picked for the worlds team,” said Hurd, who hit her four routines solidly save a minor uneven bars error and some balance beam wobbles. “It honestly just felt like the best floor routine I’ve ever done.”

HURD VIDEOS: Beam | Floor | Uneven Bars | Vault

The highlight of the night may have been the medal ceremony. Hurd received her gold medal from Nadia Comaneci, the 1976 Olympic all-around champion in Montreal.

“In third grade I was actually [Comaneci] for a school project,” Hurd said. “I went and dressed as her.”

Every member of the Final Five — including Olympic all-around gold and silver medalists Biles and Aly Raisman — is sitting out this season.

Biles and Raisman have said they plan to come back with eyes on Tokyo 2020. (When she was 13, Hurd woke up before dawn to live blog Biles’ performance at the 2014 World Championships in China.)

Friday’s final also missed the two favorites going into the week — the Olympic alternate Smith and Romanian Larisa Iordache.

Smith left on crutches after injuring herself warming up for her first event — vault (video here).

She was taken for X-Rays, according to USA Gymnastics. Smith’s score in qualifying, a 55.932 with a balance beam fall, was seven tenths better than Hurd’s total Friday.

Iordache, a two-time world all-around medalist, tore an Achilles warming up for floor exercise before qualification on Wednesday.

Hurd, adopted from China as a toddler and living in Delaware, is the youngest Olympic or world all-around champion since Aliya Mustafina in 2010.

She repeated Biles’ feat of winning the world all-around title in her first year as a senior gymnast, the year after the Olympics.

Hurd had the added hurdle of coming back from spring elbow surgery, too.

Black, who had never before won an Olympic or world medal, became the first Canadian male or female gymnast to win an Olympic or world all-around medal of any color.

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Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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