Morgan Hurd, Simone Biles, Riley McCusker
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U.S. women’s gymnastics team named for world championships

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Simone Biles was joined on the U.S. women’s gymnastics team for the world championships in two weeks by all of the other big names, including the 2017 U.S. and world all-around champions during her break from the sport.

Morgan Hurd (2017 World all-around champ), Ragan Smith (2017 U.S. all-around champ), Riley McCuskerGrace McCallum and Kara Eaker were named to the worlds team on Friday by USA Gymnastics. Biles clinched a spot by winning the all-around at a selection camp in Sarasota, Fla., on Thursday.

USA Gymnastics must designate one of the six gymnasts as its alternate before world competition begins in Doha. The Americans are clear favorites to earn the team title, which they have done at the last two Olympics and last three world championships.

Four women can compete per apparatus in qualifying. In the team final, it’s the same three-up, three-count format as at the Olympics. No more than two gymnasts per nation qualify for individual finals.

If the U.S. team final roster went straight off best scores from Thursday’s selection camp all-around, it would look like this:

Vault — Biles, Hurd, McCallum
Uneven Bars — McCusker, Biles, Hurd
Balance Beam — Eaker, McCusker, Biles
Floor Exercise — Biles, McCallum, McCusker
Alternate: Smith

If it went off best average scores from the U.S. Championships and Thursday’s camp, it would be:

Vault — Biles, McCallum, Hurd
Uneven Bars — McCusker, Biles, Hurd
Balance Beam — Biles, Eaker, McCusker
Floor Exercise — Biles, McCallum, Hurd/McCusker (tie)
Alternate: Smith

A look at each of the six gymnasts:

Simone Biles
Four-time Olympic champion
Three-time world all-around champion
Undefeated for five years in the all-around

An overwhelming favorite for a fourth world all-around title, which would break her tie with Russian Svetlana Khorkina for the most titles by a woman. Biles has a chance to earn medals in every event after she swept the five golds at the U.S. Championships in August. The toughest is uneven bars, the only event Biles did not earn a medal in Rio (and has never done so at a worlds).

Morgan Hurd
2017 World all-around champion
2018 U.S. all-around silver medalist

The surprise world’s best gymnast in 2017. The Delaware resident went from fifth at 2016 junior nationals to sixth at 2017 senior nationals to winning the world all-around title in Montreal last October. She’s followed that with a strong season, winning the American Cup in March and placing second to Biles at nationals. However, McCusker beat Hurd at the U.S. Classic in July, and McCusker and McCallum outscored her at the selection camp.

Ragan Smith
2017 U.S. all-around champion
2016 Olympic alternate

Smith looked unlikely to make this team back at nationals in August. She placed 10th there, competing with broken toes and lingering pain from an ankle injury that knocked her out of the 2017 Worlds, where she was the favorite. She bounced back at the selection camp with a fifth-place finish. Smith is an all-arounder, but with Biles, Hurd and McCusker posting the top scores this season, it would be hard to get into all four events at worlds, assuming she isn’t named the alternate. Smith is coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal.

Riley McCusker
2017, 2018 U.S. all-around bronze medalist

McCusker made her first world team after withdrawing before last year’s selection camp with an injury. She was second to Biles at the U.S. Classic in July and the selection camp Thursday, making a strong bid to join Biles in the all-around in Doha. It looks to come down to Hurd and McCusker for that second and last all-around spot in the world final. McCusker is coached by Maggie Haney, who guided Laurie Hernandez to the Rio Olympics.

Grace McCallum
2018 U.S. all-around, fourth place

With Eaker, one of two first-year seniors on the world team. Last year’s promising juniors were Maile O’Keefe and Emma Malabuyo, whose scores at 2017 Nationals would have placed second and third in the senior division. But neither O’Keefe nor Malabuyo were healthy for the whole selection season and didn’t make it to the camp. Enter McCallum, who was 11th at 2017 junior nationals before her senior breakout in August. She was third in the selection camp all-around and second to Biles on floor exercise.

Kara Eaker
2018 U.S. balance beam silver medalist

Eaker, 15 years old like McCallum, was third at 2017 junior nationals but has established herself within the U.S. senior team as one of its best beam workers. Only Biles outscored her there at nationals, and she had the highest score in the selection camp all-around on beam by 1.05 points. If neither is the alternate, Eaker and McCallum would be the first pair of 15-year-olds to compete at an Olympics or worlds for the U.S. since Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney in 2011.

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Penny Oleksiak edges Simone Manuel, Regan Smith sizzles again in Knoxville

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Penny Oleksiak and Simone Manuel nearly duplicated their Olympic gold-medal tie. The Canadian Oleksiak edged Manuel by .03 in the 100m freestyle at a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., on Sunday night.

Oleksiak clocked 53.41 seconds, coming back from .37 behind Manuel at the 50-meter mark. The two tied for the Rio Olympic title in an Olympic record 52.70 seconds four years ago. Oleksiak was the surprise, a 16-year-old who came into the Games ranked eighth in the world for the year.

Since, Manuel swept the 2017 and 2019 World titles. Oleksiak was sixth at 2017 Worlds and withdrew before the 100m free at 2019 Worlds. She ranked 21st in the world last year. Oleksiak’s time Sunday was her fastest since 2017.

Full Knoxville meet results are here. The Pro Series’ next stop is Des Moines from March 4-7.

In other events Sunday, world-record holder Regan Smith won the 200m backstroke in 2:05.94, the fastest time ever outside of a national championships or major international meet. Smith, 17, achieved the same feat on Saturday in the 100m back, where she also broke the world record at last summer’s worlds.

Madisyn Cox won a matchup of the three fastest U.S. women in the 200m individual medley in 2019. She clocked 2:09.88, beating Alex Walsh by a half-second and Melanie Margalis by .54.

It was Cox’s fastest time since she took bronze at the 2017 World Championships. She missed the 2019 Worlds after failing a 2018 drug test over what she said was a contaminated multivitamin.

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Mikaela Shiffrin among favorites eliminated early in parallel giant slalom

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Mikaela Shiffrin was upset in the round of 16 of the first World Cup parallel giant slalom by unheralded Frenchwoman Clara Direz, who went on to earn her first win on Sunday.

Shiffrin had the fastest qualifying time but was bounced in the second round of head-to-head racing in Sestriere by Direz. Direz, 24, came into the day with a best career finish of seventh.

Direz was 16th-fastest in qualifying, 1.02 seconds behind Shiffrin combining times from two runs. Direz edged Shiffrin by .13 in their head-to-head run. Shiffrin appeared to be at a disadvantage being put on the red course, which produced just three winners among 20 one-run matchups.

“It is fun; I think I like the parallel GS actually more than the parallel slalom, but it’s a little bit difficult,” Shiffrin said. “I think there’s still a lot of work we have to do, and FIS [the International Ski Federation] has to do to really make the race as even as it can be because for sure you can see, there’s always a faster course. But today it’s like they’re not even the same course at all. Especially in the last four, five gates on the blue course, you can even see just looking up the hill that it’s straighter than the red course.

“Today I would say it’s a day where the luck [of which course you draw randomly] really plays a role.”

Direz eventually beat Austrian Elisa Moerzinger in the final. Direz was on the blue course for three of her four one-run rounds. Full results are here.

Higher-ranked racers used to be have their choice of courses in the parallel format.

“Maybe that wasn’t fair, either, but I think there must be a way to make it something that is more even, but at the same time, yeah, I don’t really have the answers on how to do that, either,” Shiffrin said. “It’s still in its infancy, this event.”

Shiffrin has a track record of success in parallel slaloms and similar city events, winning five of her last six starts. But the parallel GS proved problematic for the world’s best in slalom.

Swiss Wendy Holdener and Slovakian Petra Vlhova were also eliminated before the quarterfinals after being second- and third-fastest in qualifying. Holdener was also on the red course. Vlhova lost in the round of 32, when skiers were taking runs on both the blue and red courses.

Sestriere marked the last weekend of technical races (slaloms/giant slaloms) until mid-February. The next three weekends feature downhills and super-Gs. Shiffrin is expected to travel to Bansko, Bulgaria, for the first set on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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