U.S. adds 2 medals at gymnastics worlds; 42-year-old finishes 5th

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Two rookies added medals for the U.S. at the world gymnastics championships in Montreal on Saturday.

Jade Carey, who was not an elite-level gymnast a year ago, earned silver on vault. Uzbekistan’s Oksana Chusovitina, a 42-year-old who has competed at a record seven Olympics, finished fifth, missing a medal by one tenth of a point.

All five gold medalists on Saturday were repeat champions from two years ago — Russian Maria Paseka (vault), Japanese Kenzo Shirai (floor exercise), Chinese Fan Yilin (uneven bars), Brit Max Whitlock (pommel horse) and Greek Eleftherios Petrounias (still rings).

The U.S. men wrapped up their worlds with one medal — Yul Moldauer‘s bronze on floor — their lightest medal haul since 2010.

Frenchman Samir Aït Saïd, who horrifically broke his left leg in Rio, missed his first world medal by .008 on rings.

Worlds conclude Sunday with five more apparatus finals (broadcast schedule here). All-around champion Morgan Hurd goes on balance beam and Carey on floor exercise.

No American men qualified for Sunday’s high bar, parallel bars or vault finals.

Women’s Vault
GOLD: Maria Paseka (RUS) — 14.85
SILVER: Jade Carey (USA) — 14.766
BRONZE: Giulia Steingruber (SUI) — 14.466
4. Ellie Black (CAN) — 14.416
5. Oksana Chusovitina (UZB) — 14.366
6. Wang Yan (CHN) — 14.35
7. Shallon Olsen (CAN) — 14.233
8. Sae Miyakawa (JPN) — 13.8

The top three went unchanged from qualifying to final. Paseka is now a repeat world champion after bagging vault silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics. Carey beat Paseka on execution but was behind on difficulty.

Chusovitina, who was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in May, came close to earning her 11th career Olympic or world vault medal and first since 2011.

Men’s Floor Exercise
GOLD: Kenzo Shirai (JPN) — 15.633
SILVER: Artem Dolgopyat (ISR) — 14.533
BRONZE: Yul Moldauer (USA) — 14.5
4. Bram Verhofstad (NED) — 14.333
5. Tomas Gonzalez (CHI) — 14.266
6. Donnell Whittenburg (USA) — 14.166
7. Manrique Larduet (CUB) — 14.1
8. Kim Hansol (KOR) — 14.1
9. Milad Karimi (KAZ) — 13.266

Shirai, the 21-year-old known as the “Twist Prince” for his unmatched aerial moves, became the first man to repeat as world champion on floor since Russian Alexei Nemov in 1999. He finished his routine with his signature move, a quad twist. Shirai, now with three world titles on floor, was shockingly fourth in Rio. None of the Rio medalists were in Saturday’s final.

Moldauer, the 21-year-old U.S. all-around champion, earned a medal at his first worlds with the highest execution score and lowest difficulty. Whittenburg, the Olympic alternate built like a linebacker, struggled with the landings of his first two tumbling passes.

Uneven Bars
GOLD: Fan Yilin (CHN) — 15.166
SILVER: Elena Eremina (RUS) — 15.1
BRONZE: Nina Derwael (BEL) — 15.033
4. Anastasiya Iliyankova (RUS) — 14.9
5. Elisabeth Seitz (GER) — 14.766
6. Diana Varinska (UKR) — 14.583
7. Luo Huan (CHN) — 14.566
8. Ashton Locklear (USA) — 12.766

Fan was the only returning woman from a four-way tie for gold at the 2015 Worlds. Also missing were all three Olympic medalists — Aliya MustafinaMadison Kocian and Sophie Scheder.

Locklear, who battled Kocian for an Olympic spot last year, tearfully came off the high bar. She is the only member of the four-woman U.S. team with worlds experience, having finished fourth on bars in 2014.

Pommel Horse
GOLD: Max Whitlock (GBR) — 15.441

SILVER: David Belyavskiy (RUS) — 15.1
BRONZE: Xiao Ruoteng (CHN) — 15.066
4. Alex Naddour (USA) — 14.75
5. Harutyun Merdinyan (ARM) — 14.7
6. Weng Hao (CHN) — 14.5
7. Oleg Verniaiev (UKR) — 13.7
8. Saso Bertoncelj (SLO) — 12.966

Whitlock, Britain’s only Olympic gymnastics champion, followed his 2015 World and 2016 Olympic gold medals with another title. Whitlock, also the Olympic all-around bronze medalist, has given up competing on all six events to focus on pommels and floor exercise to prolong his career another two Olympics.

The Olympic bronze medalist Naddour hoped to challenge for gold, but he was short on his scissors to handstand. The last American man to earn a world pommel horse medal was Sasha Artemev in 2006 (bronze).

Still Rings
GOLD: Eleftherios Petrounias (GRE) — 15.433

SILVER: Denis Ablyazin (RUS) — 15.333
BRONZE: Liu Yang (CHN) — 15.266

4. Samir Aït Saïd (FRA) — 15.258
5. Ibrahim Colak (TUR) — 15.066
6. Igor Radivilov (UKR) — 14.933
7. Arthur Zanetti (BRA) — 14.9
8. Courtney Tulloch (GBR) — 14.533

Aït Saïd is the story here. Fourteen months after that awful Rio vault qualification injury, the Frenchman was in medal position until Liu knocked him out by .008 on the last routine.

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WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule | ScoresWomen to Watch | Men to Watch

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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