Simone Biles wins record 13th world title, completes medal set

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Simone Biles is the most decorated world champion in gymnastics history. And the only American to earn world medals in every event.

Biles earned her first world title on vault and her first world medal (silver) on the uneven bars on Friday, checking off two of the (relatively) biggest holes on her résumé. They came exactly one year after the four-time Rio Olympic champ returned to training following a 14-month break.

Biles, unable to pass a large kidney stone in Doha, passed retired Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo for most career world titles with her 13th gold.

Biles cruised to it on vault — after two silvers and a bronze in previous years — despite taking out difficulty. She chose not to perform her signature vault, the one she sat down in Thursday’s all-around final.

“You can’t change what happened yesterday,” Biles said of one of her two falls in Thursday’s all-around, which she still won convincingly due to her huge edge in difficulty.

She took out a half-twist, and though Biles had a big step on the landing, she still scored 15.266. She nailed an Amanar on her second vault for a 15.466. None of the other seven finalists cracked 15 points on either vault.

Also in the vault final, 43-year-old Oksana Chusovitina finished fourth, missing a medal by .208. The Uzbek who debuted at worlds for the Soviet Union in 1991 already holds the Olympic record of seven gymnastics appearances. At Tokyo 2020, she can become the oldest Olympic gymnast in 100 years.

An hour and leotard change later, Biles took second to Belgian Nina Derwael on bars, five tenths behind. Biles was 14th on bars in Rio and had previously made one bars final at worlds, finishing fourth in 2013.

“[2013] is when I wanted to chainsaw every bar in the country and the world,” Biles told media in Doha.

When she returned to training last year under a new coach known for his bars workers, Laurent Landi, Biles set out to improve her weakest event. What if you had told her then that she would put in the work necessary to become a world medalist in 365 days?

“I would have probably said I’m quitting,” she said, laughing. “To even work and put that much effort into bars, I probably would have been like, no, no thank you.”

If Biles earns medals on balance beam and floor exercise Saturday, she will become the first woman to make the podium in every event at worlds since Soviet Yelena Shushunova in 1987. She would also tie retired Russian Svetlana Khorkina for the most world medals for a woman with 20.

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In other events, two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak‘s bid for a first individual Olympic or world medal was foiled yet again. Mikulak, a five-time U.S. all-around champion, finished fourth on pommel horse and seventh on floor exercise.

On Wednesday, Mikulak was in third place going into the last rotation of the all-around, erred and dropped to fifth. He also finished fourth in high bar finals at the 2013 Worlds and 2016 Olympics. Mikulak has two more medal chances Saturday on parallel bars and high bar.

The pommel horse title came down to a tiebreaker. Xiao Ruoteng, who on Wednesday lost his all-around repeat bid via tiebreak, this time took gold over Olympic champion Max Whitlock of Great Britain, though both had the same score of 15.166. Xiao had a higher execution score, keeping Whitlock from a third world title on the event.

Russian Artur Dalaloyan added floor gold to his all-around title from Wednesday. Dalaloyan unseated three-time world champion Kenzo Shirai with a 14.9-point routine, despite having six fewer tenths of difficulty. Shirai scored 14.866.

Carlos Yulo earned the Philippines’ first gymnastics worlds medal, a bronze, .034 ahead of fourth-place Yul Moldauer. Moldauer, the 2017 U.S. all-around champion, earned floor bronze last year.

Greek Eleftherios Petrounias put off shoulder surgery to win his fourth straight Olympic or world title on still rings, beating 2012 Olympic champ Arthur Zanetti by .266.

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MORE: Why Simone Biles can win with two falls

Nathan Chen prepared to capture third national title

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Nathan Chen called into his media teleconference from the rink last week, still on his winter break between his freshman semesters at Yale University.

The signal wasn’t great inside, he said, and it momentarily spared him from answering a direct question about his GPA his first semester as a college student.

Back on the call, the reigning world champion admitted, “I’m not gonna say the exact number, but there are some A’s and B’s sprinkled in.

“Really no complaints. I got pretty good grades. I’m pretty happy with that.”

His skating report card from the fall reads equally as impressively. Chen won the title at Skate America to open the season, followed by a come-from-behind win at Grand Prix France. To cap it all off, he won a second-consecutive Grand Prix Final title.

All this while the 2018 Olympic team event bronze medalist is across the country from his longtime coach Rafael Arutunian and trying out telecoaching for the first time.

Back in California between semesters, Chen said Raf has asked him to stay full-time.

“Since the past two weeks that I’ve been here, literally every day he’s been like, ‘you gotta come back! You gotta come back! There’s so much that you can learn at the rink. I respect what your decision is at Yale but it’s been so great having you here.’ He really wishes that I could stay here full time but at the same time, I already started this path and I don’t really want to pull out just yet.”

As for his second semester in college, Chen is signed up for about 10 courses and will have about two weeks at the beginning of term to add and drop courses. He’ll be in classes – he’s not exactly sure which, though – for a week before attempting to notch his third-straight U.S. national title.

“I selected a bunch of courses, probably selected like 10 different courses. I’ll go in and the first week I will see which courses I like, which courses I don’t like.”

Competing during the spring semester might be harder. February’s Four Continents Championships, this year to be held in Anaheim, Calif., aren’t during a scheduled academic break. Conveniently, world championships are scheduled during Yale’s spring break.

“I’m not sure yet [if he’ll compete there if named to the team],” he said. “That’s still TBD. I would love to since it’s in California, and it’s a great event. We’ll see.”

But for now, competing well in Detroit is the next step.

“I have to skate as well as I can and regardless of the external things,” he said when asked if coming in as the reigning world champion or as the favorite affects him. “Just focus on all the things that I can do right now in training to make sure that I do the best I can in competition.”

The men’s short program is Jan. 26 followed by the free skate on Jan. 27.

MORE: Adam Rippon’s new year’s resolutions

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Mikaela Shiffrin wins Kronplatz giant slalom for her 10th win of the season

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Mikaela Shiffrin won the women’s giant slalom at the World Cup stop in Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday, marking her 10th victory of the 2018-19 season and 53rd World Cup win of her career. Shiffrin, the 2018 Olympic giant slalom gold medalist, led France’s Tessa Worley by 1.39 seconds after the first run. Although Worley outpaced Shiffrin in the second run, Shiffrin’s massive first-run margin allowed her to win the two-run event by 1.21 seconds. Italy’s Marta Bassino placed third. Full results are here. 

Shiffrin entered Kronplatz ranked third in the World Cup giant slalom standings, but moves into first place with the win. The 23-year-old also leads the overall World Cup leader board, as well as the slalom and super-G discipline standings. Shiffrin has won seven World Cup globes in her career (two overall, five slalom).

Shiffrin has already broken multiple records this season, including becoming the youngest skier to win 50 World Cup races, and there are still more records within striking distance. Shiffrin could break the record for most World Cup wins in a single seasons; the current record (14) was set by Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider in 1988-89.

The next stop for the women’s World Cup is this weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, with two downhills scheduled for Friday and Saturday, and a super-G slated for Sunday. Shiffrin plans to skip the downhills, but enter the super-G. Lindsey Vonn, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury, is expected to make her return to competition in Friday’s downhill.