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.

GYM WORLDS: Results | TV Schedule

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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GYM WORLDS: Full women’s finals qualifiers

Kristoffersen topples Hirscher to win giant slalom at worlds

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ARE, Sweden — Norwegian skiing is in safe hands, even with its beloved king now in retirement.

Henrik Kristoffersen gave Norway its second individual gold medal of the world championships by toppling an under-the-weather Marcel Hirscher to win the giant slalom on Friday.

With Kjetil Jansrud also victorious in the downhill last week, Norway appears in great shape heading into the post-Aksel Lund Svindal era.

Svindal signed off his illustrious career with a silver medal behind Jansrud in the downhill, and said he was leaving behind a strong generation of Norwegian skiing talent.

Kristoffersen is at the forefront of that — especially now that he has ended his long wait for a medal at a world championship.

The 24-year-old Kristoffersen had finished fourth in his last three races at the worlds — the giant slalom and slalom in 2017 and the slalom in 2015 — and headed into his second run of the GS in third place behind leader Alexis Pinturault and Hirscher, the favorite and one of skiing’s all-time greats.

However, Kristoffersen produced an aggressive run under the lights, his speed and flow particularly apparent in the bottom section, to win by 0.20 seconds over Hirscher. Pinturault won the bronze medal, 0.42 seconds back.

“It was about time to get a medal,” said Kristoffersen, who wasn’t necessarily expecting it to come in GS.

Kristoffersen’s last win in the discipline came at Meribel in 2015 and he has been consistently behind Hirscher, the seven-time overall World Cup winner and defending Olympic and world GS champion. He finished second to Hirscher at last year’s Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Kristoffersen was without a win in any discipline for a year but said he gained confidence from the course being doused with salt to maintain the snow surface amid unseasonably warm weather. The temperature in Are for the first leg was 8 C (46 F).

“There’s no one that skis on salt as much as Norwegians do,” he said. “Even though I haven’t trained on salt in GS in a long, long time, I have it from childhood.”

Hirscher’s preparations for the race were affected by a bout of flu that kept him in bed for much of the past two days. He acknowledged after the race that the likelihood of him lining up on the starting gate wasn’t high on Thursday.

“Normally,” Hirscher said, “if you have regular work on those days, you normally tell your boss I’m done for the day.”

Yet he managed to be only 0.10 seconds behind Pinturault after an error-free first run, keeping Hirscher on course for a record-tying seventh gold medal at the worlds. But he went wide at two gates in the top section of his second run, causing him to lose 0.41 seconds on Kristoffersen in the middle section.

“Second place is the first loser but Henrik had an amazing day with two great runs,” Hirscher said. “Henrik is at the top for such a long time. He was more than ready for a world title.”

Hirscher, who was noticeably sniffing after the race, added that he was “looking forward to getting back to bed again” to rest up ahead of Sunday’s slalom.

When Pinturault crossed the finish line in third place, Kristoffersen clenched his fists before walking into the finish area, crouching on one knee and acknowledging the jubilant Norwegian fans in the grandstand.

For Pinturault, it was his second medal of the championships after winning the Alpine combined on Monday.

Wesenberg wins first U.S. skeleton World Cup medal in two years

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With a bronze medal in Lake Placid earlier today, Kendall Wesenberg became the first American to reach the World Cup podium in skeleton in two years.

Wesenberg, who finished 17th at her first Olympics in PyeongChang, had a combined time of 1:51.10 in Lake Placid. Prior to today, her last podium finish at the World Cup was in St. Moritz in January 2017.

“This has never been my strongest track, so we really broke it down piece by piece, and I think it paid off,” Wesenberg said, according to USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “The second run, I kind of tried to throw it away at the top there. By the time I made it to corner 10, I was just thinking ‘build speed, build speed.”

Wesenberg, 28, grew up in California’s Central Valley, but her interest in sliding sports piqued while watching the 2010 Vancouver Games. When the commentators discussed the athletic backgrounds of the athletes, Wesenberg realized she played some of the same sports growing up. A quick Google search brought her to the USA Bobsled and Skeleton page. She told her siblings she was thinking of trying skeleton. They said she’d never do it. Challenge accepted.

Wesenberg emailed a U.S. coach and signed up for a combine and driving training in January 2011. Seven years later, she was sliding on Olympic ice.

Sliding coverage continues today on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, with women’s bobsled live at 3:15 p.m. ET and men’s bobsled live at 4:15.