Simone Biles wins fourth world all-around title, after falls, by record gap

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Simone Biles can fall multiple times and still win. She had to prove that on the global stage for the first time Thursday.

Biles overcame her first two falls in more than 60 career Olympic or world champs routines to grab a record-breaking fourth world all-around title, crowning her the best gymnast less than a year after she returned from a 14-month break.

She later apologized on Twitter for giving fans “a heart attack.”

“This one has probably been the hardest to get out of all my world championships and Olympic medals, and the scariest one,” the 21-time medalist Biles said, according to the International Gymnastics Federation. “A bit disappointing because that’s not the performance I would hope to give.”

Biles distanced Japan’s Mai Murakami by 1.693 points, the largest women’s world all-around margin of victory under the 12-year-old Code of Points. Why with two falls? Because her difficulty — which accounts for roughly 40 percent of scores — is 2.7 points greater than anybody else, by far her greatest d score edge of her five Olympic/world all-around titles. Falling off an apparatus is a one-point deduction.

Murakami held off 2017 World champ Morgan Hurd for silver by .066.

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The four-time Rio Olympic champion shockingly sat down her opening vault landing and scored 14.533. She came off the balance beam two rotations later and tallied 13.233.

“I didn’t know if I was going to pull it off today, and then I started doubting myself,” she said. “I was definitely shocked.”

Remember, she’s competing with a kidney stone that she named the “Doha Pearl,” which was too big to pass in an emergency room visit on Friday night and Saturday morning. The U.S. prepared an alternate Tuesday team final lineup without her in case she had to withdraw, but Biles said Thursday the pain was manageable.

Not that it made her much less of an overwhelming favorite. Biles had the highest score in qualifying by 4.5. The falls did not put her in a precarious position in the standings.

“Instead of thinking I could win, I was thinking ‘Oh, Biles can fall,'” Murakami said.

Biles still led by .092 going into her last routine, floor exercise, where she is a full point better than the rest of the world.

“I was like, ‘Well, today seems to be horrible, so let’s see what else can go wrong,'” Biles said. “Then I had to get those bad thoughts out of my head.”

She went out of bounds on her first tumbling pass but still scored a 15, highest of the day by that full point.

That made it the largest overall gap in the women’s all-around at worlds since the perfect-10 judging system was thrown out in 2006. Shawn Johnson held the previous margin-of-victory record of 1.25 points from 2007.

Biles also broke her tie with retired Russian Svetlana Khorkina for the most women’s all-around titles. And matched retired Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo for the most career world gold medals with 12.

Biles can surge past Scherbo on Friday and Saturday with four more gold opportunities in apparatus finals. She could become the first woman to earn six medals at a worlds since Soviet Yelena Shushunova in 1987.

“Hopefully in [apparatus] finals I’ll get to redeem myself,” Biles said.

Hurd, who won last year’s title in Biles’ absence, led after vault and was second to Biles after bars. But she put her hands down to keep from falling off the beam, where she scored 12.933. Hurd recovered on floor, moving from fourth to bronze.

“If you would have told me two years ago I would have had this many worlds medals, I would have never believed you,” said Hurd, a revelation since placing sixth at the 2017 U.S. Championships.

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Ginny Fuchs hopes to emerge from OCD, tearful Olympic experience

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None of the boxers at this week’s U.S. Olympic Trials competed at a prior Olympics, but flyweight Ginny Fuchs remembers the specifics of her one Olympic experience in Rio.

Fuchs, who won the 2016 Olympic trials but failed to clinch a spot at the Games in international qualifiers, was nonetheless named team captain and brought to Rio as a sparring partner.

She had mixed feelings. Watching from the crowd as Claressa Shields repeated as Olympic champion on the final day of the Games was motivating. Fuchs had toyed with turning professional but, after talking to Shields, decided to forge another four years as an amateur for another chance to become an Olympian.

The Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony, two weeks before that Shields final, was too much for Fuchs to bear. She could not stay in the Athletes’ Village nor march with the U.S. delegation at the Maracana.

“I remember watching the Opening Ceremony at the place I was at with everybody,” she said. “I couldn’t watch. It was hard for me to watch. I went back to my room, cried and went to bed.”

Fuchs is favored to win the 51kg/112-pound division this week at Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Lake Charles, La., with finals streaming live on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday (4-7 p.m. ET). It’s one of five women’s Olympic weight classes, up from three in 2012 and 2016, the first two editions of the Games for female boxers.

No boxer can clinch an Olympic spot this week, but failing to make a final would all but end Tokyo hopes.

Fuchs’ toughest opponent in this Olympic cycle — which included an undefeated 2017 and a 2018 World bronze medal among more than 130 fights — may be herself. Fuchs has been open about struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder.

It started in fifth grade.

“I can remember the first time I was on the school bus, and I was looking at the ground and looking at everybody’s backpacks on the floor,” said Fuchs, a 31-year-old from the Houston area. “And an instant thought came in mind, like, Oh my god. Everybody’s backpack is getting contaminated by this dirty floor on the bus.”

She cited a more recent example: spending up to 40 minutes washing her hands searching for that “perfect clean feeling.” Fuchs found boxing via a boyfriend after she was kicked off the LSU cross-country running team as a freshman walk-on for damaging school property in a prank.

She said the disorder hit her hardest this year. In January, she was driving to a Walmart three times a day to buy cleaning supplies, according to The New York Times.

She underwent intensive therapy and skipped October’s world championships, where she could have established herself as a clear Olympic gold-medal favorite.

“I still am going to probably do therapy for the rest of my life,” Fuchs said. “Maybe not as intense as I’m doing it right now, but it’s almost like training for boxing.

“You’ve got to keep training to keep winning in boxing. So I’ve got to keep training my OCD thoughts and how to handle and manage it. … Boxing is giving me hope almost. Like OK, outside the ring and in my room and the bathroom, I feel like [OCD] controls me and feel trapped. But I have this environment in this space in the gym, in the boxing ring, where I can be myself. And not let it attack me in a way where I can still enjoy life and not be trapped.”

Should Fuchs make the final of her division in Lake Charles, she will advance to a January camp and tournament, after which the U.S. roster for Olympic qualifying will be named.

If selected, Fuchs would head to a North and South American Olympic qualifying event in early spring in Buenos Aires to clinch the spot she could not secure four years ago. If necessary, she could get a second chance at a global qualifier in May in Paris.

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Yulia Efimova has lawyer ready if Russia ban affects her

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Yulia Efimova, the Russian swimmer who earned two Rio Olympic silver medals after initially being excluded from the Games for serving a prior doping ban, is bracing for another legal fight after the latest sanctions against her nation.

On Monday, Russia was banned from the 2020 and 2022 Olympics and the next four years of world championships in Olympic sports due to more recent anti-doping violations. However, its athletes can still compete as neutrals, if meeting specific anti-doping criteria, similar to how they did at the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Efimova was initially barred from the Rio Olympics under an IOC mandate that any Russian who previously served a doping ban would be ineligible due to the country’s anti-doping violations at that time.

Efimova appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which ruled that IOC stipulation unenforceable. She went on to earn 100m and 200m breaststroke silver medals and develop a rivalry with American Lilly King, who said Efimova should not have been eligible.

It’s unclear from Monday’s ruling whether Efimova will be allowed to compete as a neutral, should Russia accept the sanctions or any appeal to CAS by the nation be denied.

“I will behave in a similar way,” to 2016, Efimova said, according to RT.com. “I have already hired a lawyer. There is a rule that a person can’t be punished twice for the same offense. If you violate a driving code or instigated a brawl you will not be punished twice for that. I hope it will work, but I cannot be sure of [a positive outcome].

“Right after my race at the Rio Games, I said that this doping controversy was not over, it was just the beginning, and we would have problems in the future. It was quite clear. And with every new year the situation is only getting worse and worse.”

Efimova, 27 and the two-time reigning world 200m breast champion, was banned 16 months between 2013 and 2015 after testing positive for a steroid. A FINA panel ruled that Efimova was not intentionally trying to cheat but was negligent in failing to read the label of a GNC store supplement.

“Yes, long ago I made a doping violation,” Efimova said this week, according to RT. “But there are a great number of U.S. and European athletes who have a similar situation regarding doping, and they are competing without any restrictions. If you want to introduce those regulations, they must be equally applied to all athletes, not only Russian competitors.”

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