Simone Biles caps worlds as most decorated female gymnast ever

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Simone Biles, after 14 months away from the sport and while carrying a kidney stone, finished the best major gymnastics meet of her life on Saturday.

Biles became the most decorated female gymnast in world championships history with four golds, a silver and a bronze in Doha this week. She matched retired Russian Svetlana Khokrina‘s record 20 career medals, but owns the tiebreaker with a record 14 golds.

“If you look at how many world medals I have, and then Olympics, it’s just like, how old is this chick? She needs to leave!” joked the 21-year-old Biles, who returned to training last November after four golds in Rio. “I’m really not that old yet.”

Biles, with floor exercise gold and balance beam bronze on Saturday, became the first gymnast to earn medals in every event at worlds in 31 years. And the fourth in history to earn medals in every event at an Olympics or worlds with at least four gold medals.

The others were Soviet Larissa Latynina‘s five-gold, one-silver effort at 1958 Worlds (while four months pregnant), Czech Vera Caslavska‘s four-gold, two-silver haul at the 1968 Mexico City Games and Soviet Ludmilla Tourischeva at 1974 Worlds (four gold, one silver, one bronze).

Only Vitaly Scherbo and Kohei Uchimura have more world medals than Biles with 23 and 21. Expect Biles to snatch that record next year in Stuttgart, Germany.

“I’m really pleased with my performances. Yes, I wish some of them could have gone better,” she said. “I’m most proud that I’m here, made all of the event finals, medaled in all of the events and I survived.”

GYM WORLDS: Full Results | TV Schedule

Of Saturday’s five finals between the men and women, the biggest lock for gold was Biles on floor. She delivered a 14.933, winning by a full point over countrywoman Morgan Hurd, and has now won the event at all four of her world championships appearances and in Rio.

Beam has been less predictable. Biles took her second straight major meet bronze in the event, erring but not falling off the four-inch-wide apparatus, just as she did in Rio. Biles scored 13.6. China’s Liu Tingting came up clutch for gold on the last routine with a 14.533.

“I’m just happy that I even stayed on the beam today,” said Biles, who fell off the beam in Thursday’s all-around and put her hand on it to save her balance in Tuesday’s team event. “It’s been a rough beam this whole entire time besides qualifications.”

Hurd earned her fifth world medal and third this week after team gold and all-around bronze.

“I was actually a little nervous going after Simone,” she said. “A lot to live up to, but I think I delivered.”

Also in the beam final, American Kara Eaker fell on her mount and finished sixth. Eaker, the youngest American to compete at worlds since Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney in 2011, won beam at the U.S. selection camp for worlds by 1.05 points and had the highest beam score for the Americans in Tuesday’s team final.

“I think it was the nerves,” Eaker told media in Doha.

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MORE: Why Simone Biles can win with two falls

Javier Fernandez, Alina Zagitova highlight action at European Championships

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Spain’s Javier Fernandez competes for what is expected to be the final time this weekend at the European Figure Skating Championships in Minsk, Belarus. Olympic champion Alina Zagitova of Russia is also looking to defend her title in the ladies’ field.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream every program starting on Wednesday, and NBCSN and NBC will also have coverage.

MORE: Schedule/ How to watch

Men

Fernandez, the 2018 PyeongChang bronze medalist, owns six European titles. No man since Austrian Karl Schaefer – who won eight consecutive European titles beginning in 1929 – has won as many straight titles as Fernandez. Fernandez traded world titles during the last Olympic quadrennial with his training partner Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan. They both train in Toronto under Brian Orser.

Also in the field are Michal Brezina from the Czech Republic, who most recently finished fourth at the Grand Prix Final at age 28, and three Russian men: Mikhail Kolyada, Maxim Kovtun, and Alexander Samarin.

Ladies

Reigning Olympic gold medalist Zagitova could lead a Russian podium sweep at the 2019 European Championships with teammates Stanislava Konstantinova and Sofia Samodurova.

The competition-within-the-competition at Europeans is also notable: Russia will not choose their World team until after the event. For example, two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is not competing at Europeans, and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva was already told to train for Worlds despite not competing at Europeans.

Pairs

French pair Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres will try and buck a trend at Europeans, where teams representing Russia or the Soviet Union have won 47 of the last 54 titles. Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are looking for a three-peat, though have been inconsistent so far this season and recently returned to last season’s short program.

James and Cipres missed out on bronze by 0.01 points at the 2018 Europeans, and could become the first French pair to win the event since 1932. The last non-Russian team to win Europeans was Germany’s Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy in 2011.

Ice dance

Three-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France should coast to the gold medal in Minsk for a fifth consecutive title. Other dance teams have won more European titles, but no team has ever won five in a row.

The rest of the podium is more unclear. The Italians, Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, will likely split the difference between the two Russian teams – who have their own domestic battle to contend with: Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov and Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin.

As a reminder, you can watch the European 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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How to watch the European Figure Skating Championships

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Javier Fernandez returns to competition for probably a final time with his eyes on a seventh title at the European Figure Skating Championships in Minsk, Belarus Jan. 23-27.

Olympic champion Alina Zagitova looks for a second European title in the ladies’ field, while two couples from France look to top the podiums in the dance and pairs’ fields.

NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will live stream every program from Minsk starting Wednesday with the ladies’ short program.

NBCSN and NBC will also have coverage throughout the weekend.

Preview: Javier Fernandez, Alina Zagitova highlight Europeans

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European Figure Skating Championships broadcast schedule (all times Eastern)

Wednesday

Ladies’ short program: 3 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 4:30 p.m. on NBCSN

Pairs’ short program: 10:45 a.m. (GOLD)

 

Thursday

Men’s short program: 4 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

Pairs’ free skate: 11 a.m. (GOLD), begins at 11 p.m. on NBCSN

 

Friday

Rhythm dance: 3:30 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 2 p.m. on NBCSN

Ladies’ free skate: 10 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 6 p.m. on NBCSN

 

Saturday

Men’s free skate: 3:15 a.m. (GOLD) begins at 11 a.m. on NBCSN

Free dance: 8:25 a.m. (GOLD)

 

Sunday

Ladies’ and men’s free skate: 1:30 p.m. on NBC