Simone Biles, U.S. gymnastics team win world title by record margin

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The U.S. women’s gymnastics team is as dominant as ever. All the more impressive considering everything that’s happened off the competition floor since we last saw it at the Rio Olympics.

The Simone Biles-anchored five-woman team won the world championship in Doha on Tuesday by the largest margin under the 12-year-old scoring system. Biles, Morgan HurdRiley McCuskerGrace McCallum and Kara Eaker combined for 171.629 points with zero falls.

The Americans routed silver medalist Russia by 8.766 points, crushing the previous record margin of victory of 6.693 set in 2014. It also beat the Olympic record of 8.209 set by the U.S. in Rio. China rallied past Brazil for bronze on the last rotation.

The records are under the Code of Points, which replaced the perfect-10 judging system in 2006.

The U.S. has won six straight Olympic or world titles dating to 2011, the longest dynasty in the event since the Soviet Union teams of the 1970s. In 72 routines, they’ve counted zero falls.

This was the first title since the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes became public, with hundreds of survivors coming forward (including Biles and eight more Olympians), and three USA Gymnastics CEOs stepping down amid the fallout. Plus the end of the Karolyi era, revamping the national-team program.

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The rout was inevitable after the U.S. women distanced Russia by nearly nine points in qualifying over the weekend.

Biles, competing with a kidney stone she named the “Doha Pearl,” tied Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman for the U.S. record of four Olympic/world team titles. She is the only U.S. Olympian who has returned to elite competition since Rio.

“I’m really proud. It’s been a long year to get here,” said Biles, who resumed training last Nov. 1 after a year off following her four golds in Rio. “I’m really proud of the rookies we have on the team, and of course the veteran coming back.”

She had the highest scores on vault, uneven bars and floor exercise. Biles lost a half-point on balance beam for putting her hand on the beam to keep from falling off after a piked front somersault.

“I get a little jittery every time I go into that skill because it’s near the end, and I know what I’m capable of,” Biles said, according to the International Gymnastics Federation. “I don’t know why I get so shy on that skill.”

Hurd, McCusker, McCallum and Eaker earned their first team golds. Hurd is the only one from that group who previously competed at worlds, winning the all-around during Biles’ break last year in Montreal, where there was no team event.

“It’s what I’ve been working for my entire life,” the 17-year-old McCusker said in a USA Gymnastics interview.

Next up? Individual finals, beginning with the men’s and women’s all-around the next two days.

Biles goes for a record-breaking fourth women’s world all-around gold on Thursday, where her closest rival from qualifying was Hurd (a distant 4.5 points behind).

Then on Friday and Saturday, Biles will likely try to become the first woman to earn six medals at a single worlds since Soviet Yelena Shushunova in 1987. The last woman to do it at the Olympics was Romanian Daniela Silivaș in 1988.

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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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