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.”

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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

David Boudia adjusts diving event, goal for world championships

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David Boudia earned diving medals at his last three world championships and the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, but that was on the platform. He competes on the global stage on the springboard for the first time at worlds this week.

“I don’t have a lot of high hopes,” Boudia, who is still learning the springboard after switching to it in the last year, said in a phone interview from South Korea, where he begins competition Wednesday (TV schedule here). “But I think my biggest goal is to walk away with an Olympic spot.”

An Olympic spot not necessarily for himself, but for the U.S.

Boudia, a 30-year-old father of three, and any other American will clinch 2020 Olympic quota spots by placing in the top 12 in their respective individual events this week. Those spots, and any others earned at later competitions in the next year, will be filled at trials in June in Indianapolis.

NBC Sports analyst Cynthia Potter believes Boudia, who left the sport to sell homes in 2017 and came back and suffered a concussion off the platform in 2018, can meet his goal of making Friday’s 12-man final in Gwangju.

“He would have to dive well, but not better than he’s been diving,” she said. “His springboard is really well-timed, rhythmic, and he’s for a long time known how to go into the water without making a splash.”

But challenging Rio Olympic gold and silver medalists Cao Yuan of China and Jack Laugher of Great Britain, plus defending world champion Xie Siyi of China would be very tough.

Boudia lacks their degrees of difficulty, for now. He hopes to switch out two of his six dives before his first competition of 2020, though he could insert one of them should he make the world final.

“I need a good six months, so from August to December is when we’re kind of really drilling the fundamentals of learning those new dives and getting them perfected,” he said.

Boudia rallied to beat Rio Olympic springboard diver Michael Hixon for the title in May at nationals, where the top two per event earned world berths. But Boudia competed there with about a month of competition dive practice, about half as long as he would prefer.

“Hix and I are going to have a lot of training to do if we want to be even close to cracking that top five,” at worlds, Boudia said in May, according to TeamUSA.org.

Boudia is the lone U.S. diver to earn an individual world medal in an Olympic diving event since 2009.

The U.S. produced breakthroughs at worlds so far. Sarah Bacon became the first American woman to earn a world title since 2005, taking the non-Olympic 1m springboard event. Murphy Bromberg and Katrina Young bagged bronze in synchronized platform, ending a decade-long medal drought in any synchro event.

But Boudia’s goal must be shared among the whole team — as many top-12 finishes individually and top three in synchro events to gobble up Tokyo 2020 quota spots. The U.S. failed to qualify full teams for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

“Getting in the top 12 in the four individual Olympic events is the big deal right now,” Potter said. “Whether you are on the awards stand or not, that would be icing on the cake for a lot of these divers.”

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Anita Wlodarczyk, one of track and field’s most dominant, sidelined

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Poland hammer thrower Anita Wlodarczyk, the only woman to win the last five combined Olympic and world titles in a track and field event, will not go for a fourth straight world championship this fall.

Wlodarczyk had season-ending, arthroscopic left knee surgery on Monday, according to Polish media citing her coach.

Wlodarczyk, 33, has the top 15 throws on the IAAF’s all-time list, and 27 of the top 29. Her world record of 82.98 meters (scribbled on her leg pre-op) is 11 and a half feet farther the second-best woman in history. She originally took silver at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 Worlds but was upgraded to gold after Russian Tatyana Lysenko was stripped for doping.

Wlodarczyk won a reported 42 straight finals between 2014 and 2017, then suffered three losses in 2018 and two so far this year in three lower-level meets before the operation.

Americans DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson rank Nos. 1 and 2 in the world this year. A U.S. woman has never finished in the top five of an Olympic or world championships hammer throw, which debuted at worlds in 1999 and the Olympics in 2000.

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