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Sam Mikulak can be the busiest U.S. male gymnast at worlds in 39 years

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Sam Mikulak desperately wants his first individual world championships medal. He has five chances next week.

The two-time Olympian and five-time U.S. all-around champion qualified for a handful of finals at worlds in Doha on Friday, the most for a U.S. man since 1979. Thirty-nine years ago, Kurt Thomas earned two golds and three silvers in arguably the greatest single-meet performance by an American man.

“This has been a year and a half of work,” said Mikulak, who was limited last year with a torn Achilles. “This is the most comfortable that I have ever been on this grand of a stage.”

The U.S. qualified in fourth place into Monday’s team final, where China, Japan and Russia are the medal favorites.

Chances are better that Mikulak makes an individual podium, beginning with Wednesday’s all-around final. Mikulak had the third-highest score in qualifying, less than a point behind defending champ Xiao Ruoteng of China and Russian Nikita Nagornyy.

GYM WORLDS: Men’s Qualifying Results | TV/Stream Schedule

The field lacks two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Kohei Uchimura, who is not doing all events this year due to an ankle injury. It’s also without the men who last year finished second (China’s Lin Chaopan), fourth (Russian David Belyavskiy), fifth (Cuban Manrique Larduet) and sixth (Brit Nile Wilson).

Mikulak also made next weekend’s apparatus finals on high bar (in second place), pommel horse (fifth), parallel bars (sixth) and floor exercise (eighth and last spot).

The other American to make individual finals was 2017 U.S. all-around champion Yul Moldauer, who fought a bruised bicep to qualify 17th into the 24-man all-around and sixth on floor, where he earned bronze in his worlds debut last year.

All but one of Mikulak’s teammates from the last two Olympics have retired. The one who hasn’t — Rio pommel horse bronze medalist Alex Naddour — has been suspended since June for unspecified reasons.

Enter a new wave on the world team, including Rio Olympic alternate Akash Modi and fellow world championships rookies Alec Yoder and Colin Van Wicklen.

The U.S. men, under the direction of 2004 Olympic silver medalist Brett McClure are trying this Olympic cycle to reach a global podium for the first time since 2014 (a bronze, which happens to be Mikulak’s lone Olympic or world champs medal).

Though he doesn’t have the hardware, Mikulak is experienced among the world’s best.

He qualified second into the all-around final at his first world championships in 2013. He was in third place going into the last rotation of that final, but a high bar error dropped him to sixth place.

He has since finished fourth in Olympic and world high bar finals. He also qualified first into the Rio floor final but ended up eighth.

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Hayley Wickenheiser is 7th woman elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

Hayley Wickenheiser
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Hayley Wickenheiser, arguably the greatest female hockey player of all time who retired in 2017, will be the seventh female player in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The six-time Canadian Olympian (once in softball) was elected in her first year of eligibility. Wickenheiser is joined by Sergei Zubov, who earned gold at the 1992 Albertville Games with the Unified Team, two-time Czech Olympic medalist Václav Nedomanský and 1980s and ’90s NHLer Guy Carbonneau, among others.

The induction ceremony is Nov. 18 in Toronto.

Wickenheiser is the fifth Canadian female player elected after Angela James (2010), Geraldine Heaney (2013), Danielle Goyette (2017) and Jayna Hefford (2018). Americans Cammi Granato (2010) and Angela Ruggiero (2015) are also Hall of Famers.

Wickenheiser, now the Toronto Maple Leafs’ assistant director of player development, earned four golds and one silver in the first five Olympic women’s hockey tournaments. She played 23 years for the Canadian national team, earning seven world titles and being named Olympic tournament MVP in 2002 and 2006.

She also carried the Canadian flag at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony and recited the Athletes’ Oath at the Vancouver 2010 Opening Ceremony. She was elected to the International Olympic Committee Athletes’ Commission in 2014.

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Breaking provisionally added for 2024 Olympics

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Breaking (don’t call it break dancing) was provisionally added to the Olympics for the 2024 Paris Games.

The IOC also announced Tuesday that skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were provisionally added to the 2024 Olympic program. Those three sports will debut at Tokyo 2020 but were not assured places on the Olympic program beyond next year.

“They contribute to making the program more gender balanced and more urban, and offer the opportunity to connect with the younger generation,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a press release. “The proposed sports are in line with these principles and enhance Paris 2024’s overall dynamic Games concept, which focuses on inclusivity, inspiring a new audience and hosting socially responsible Games.”

The IOC Executive Board will make the final decision on the Paris 2024 event program in December 2020, but no more sports can be proposed for inclusion. That means baseball and softball, which return to the Olympics next year, will not be on the 2024 Olympic program. Those sports can still be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Breaking debuted at the Youth Olympics last year, where the U.S. did not have any athletes. Sergei “Bumblebee” Chernyshev of Russia and Ramu Kawai of Japan took gold medals.

Breaking had never previously been up for a vote for Olympic inclusion, but the World DanceSport Federation is recognized by the IOC.

Teenagers, some of whom went by nicknames like Bad Matty, Senorita Carlota and KennyG, went head-to-head in dance battles at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires last year. They performed on a mat atop an outdoor basketball court to a musical beat and emcees.

Judges determined winners using six criteria: creativity, personality, technique, variety, perfomativity and musicality.

“Breaking (also called b-boying or b-girling) is an urban dance style,” according to the Youth Olympics. “The urban dance style originated during the mid 1970s in the Bronx borough of New York City.”

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