Mic Drop: Simone Biles wins fifth world all-around by record margin

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STUTTGART, Germany — Simone Biles began the final routine of the world championships all-around competition planning to finish it with an imaginary mic drop.

She had not seen the standings before she began her floor exercise. Didn’t know how much of a cushion she had.

That final pose was a still image of how the 22-year-old Biles is approaching what will likely be the last year of her gymnastics career: Carefree.

She prevailed by 2.1 points over Chinese silver medalist Tang Xijing, the largest women’s margin of victory under the Code of Points introduced in 2006. The margin separating first from second was greater than the margin separating second from 10th.

Russian Angelina Melnikova took bronze, while the other American, Sunisa Lee, was eighth after an uneven bars fall.

Biles matched her winning margin from the Rio Olympics, after which she took 14 months off before returning to full training. She is the only woman with more than three world all-around titles.

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The night before the final, Biles and MyKayla Skinner, the only non-teens on the U.S. squad, were looking at Twitter. Biles has been pretty popular on the platform this season, earning praise from LeBron JamesMichelle Obama and Chrissy Teigen for her triple-double on floor and double-double off the balance beam.

Skinner found a tweet suggesting Biles perform the mic drop. It would be a fitting way for Biles to finish her final world all-around competition (she said she is 99 percent sure it’s her last worlds).

“[Skinner] was like, you should do it,” said, Biles, wearing her 22nd career world championships medal, one shy of the record that she should break among four more event finals on Saturday and Sunday. “I was like, should I if it’s a good routine? It wasn’t my best routine, but I thought it would be fun.”

Then on Thursday, one of Biles’ coaches sent her off into competition with this sentiment: “Enjoy every moment, because this doesn’t last forever,” said Laurent Landi, who with wife Cecile succeeded Aimee Boorman two years ago in guiding the greatest gymnast in history. “Sometimes you forget to appreciate it, and when you get a bit older, you think, maybe I should have enjoyed it a little bit more.”

Landi remembered what happened in the 2018 World all-around final. Biles won by a then-record margin, but she fell twice (with a kidney stone) and called it a disaster.

“Tragic,” she said Thursday, contrasting it with the feeling of hitting all four of her routines this year (save a couple of out-of-bounds landings, minor errors).

Biles has two more days of competition in 2019, then maybe 10 or so in 2020. But so far, the theme of the final year has been illustrated through competing with her last name on her leotard in July. Then wearing a leotard with the outline of a goat’s head in practice in August. Now the mic drop.

Biles is riding a six-year win streak in all-arounds, taking all of them over the last five years by at least one point.

Yet at 22, she’s the only non-teen to win a global all-around since 2003, only improving with more difficult skills since coming back from that post-Olympic break.

She chose Thursday not to throw two of the three skills she’s introduced in her comeback, saying she held back. She still had two more points of difficulty than any other gymnast.

“Sometimes I wonder how I do it,” Biles said. “I wish I could have like an out-of-body experience to witness it because sometimes I think I’m going crazy.

“We [gymnasts] peak when we’re a little bit younger, so I feel like I’m kind of aging like fine wine.”

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Chad le Clos seeks Sun Yang’s Olympic gold medal for doping case

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NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Chad le Clos believes he has a claim on Sun Yang’s gold medal from the Rio Olympics, with a verdict imminent on the Chinese swimmer’s latest doping case.

“He should be banned. It’s as simple as that,” Le Clos said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. “Anyone who tests positive should be banned. I should get my gold medal back from Rio.

“Not for the moment. I lost that. I don’t really care about that,” Le Clos added on Wednesday. “It’s just for my record. If I break my leg and I can’t swim again I want my record to say, ‘Two individual golds, two individual silvers.’ Because that’s what it should be.”

Le Clos’ Olympic record currently contains one gold medal and three silvers — including a second-place finish to Sun in the Rio Olympic 200m free

Odds are, though, that Sun won’t lose any Olympic titles when the Court of Arbitration for Sport issues its ruling over his alleged refusal to provide blood and urine in September 2018 in a visit by sample collectors to his home in China. During the late-night confrontation, a security guard used a hammer to smash a container holding Sun’s blood as the swimmer lit the scene with his mobile phone.

The World Anti-Doping Agency appealed after swimming federation FINA merely warned Sun and cited doubts about credentials shown by three sample collection officials.

A three-time Olympic champion, Sun could be banished from the sport for up to eight years but any ban likely won’t be backdated before September 2018 — meaning all of his Olympic medals seem safe.

But there’s also the fact that international swimming authorities worked to protect Sun from being banned, according to a Swiss supreme court document.

FINA has faced criticisms in the past for favoring Sun during his career. It did not announce Sun’s three-month ban for doping imposed by Chinese authorities until after it ended in 2014.

“I just hope the system and whatever we have is really accurate,” said Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú, who won three golds in Rio. “I just hope the decisions they are making is fair and is for the sport and not for other reasons.”

The medals that Sun risks losing most are the two golds that he won at last year’s world championships in the 200m and 400m frees. At the event in Gwangju, South Korea, fellow medalists Mack Horton of Australia and Duncan Scott of Britain refused to stand with him on the podium.

Sun has denied any wrongdoing. Any ban imposed in the coming days would likely prevent him from competing at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“I have nothing against anybody. It’s not personal,” Le Clos said. “It’s just how the world should be. If you cheat or if you do something wrong, like if you false start, you get disqualified. It’s simple as that.”

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U.S. Olympic luger Emily Sweeney looks forward from depression bout

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Luge’s World Cup campaign ends this weekend in Germany, where most of the best 100 sliders in the sport will be looking to close their international seasons on a high note.

Emily Sweeney won’t be among them.

Her season ended a couple weeks ago, on her terms.

The U.S. veteran is officially two years into her recovery from a crash at the PyeongChang Olympics that she walked away from — even with a broken neck and broken back — and two years away, she hopes, from being a medal contender at the Beijing Games.

She decided to listen to her body and step away from the frantic end of the season, heading home instead to meet her sister’s new baby and formulate a plan for her offseason.

Here’s what she has learned: Fractures heal, but everything else takes time. So while her body still betrays her from time to time on the track, an additional focus on the mental game is what Sweeney hopes will get her to the medal podium in Beijing in 2022.

“I am very comfortable about thinking about my weaknesses because I failed so much early on,” Sweeney said. “I didn’t make two Olympic teams right in a row. I constantly had to look at myself and say ‘What’s wrong? What am I not like?’ I had to be creative with my training and with the whole process. And so, I think I’m pretty comfortable with challenges.”

That’s why, this season, when she felt like her body couldn’t do it anymore she simply went home. The decision was not easy: Her team is still competing, she has plenty of friends on the circuit and her longtime boyfriend — Italian star Dominik Fischnaller — is a serious contender to win the men’s World Cup overall title.

But a setback right now could throw a serious wrench into her Olympic plans. The problem was pressure, not in the sense of what’s comes with the prospects of winning or losing in competition, but the massive gravitational force that sliders feel and fight through when they are on the ice at speeds often topping 80mph. It takes tremendous strength, and Sweeney’s neck still isn’t always up to the challenge. So, with wear and tear of the season taking a toll, she headed home.

“It’s not a question of if I’m good enough,” said Sweeney, who won a medal at last season’s world championships — cementing her status as one of the fastest women on ice. “I see it in my splits. I would have first-place splits, then get to the pressure and I ended up 15th. I just couldn’t keep going through this cycle of pushing it, pushing it, pushing it and then losing all my speed as soon as I can’t hold my head up anymore.”

So she’s working on her body and her mind.

Sweeney is one of the most-upbeat sliders on the luge circuit; always smiling, always happy, and most of the time her good mood is genuine. After the crash, however, the good mood wasn’t always there, and it took Sweeney some time to realize that there was more wrong than just the fractures in her neck and back.

“I went into a depression,” Sweeney said. “It’s weird saying that. But it feels foreign to me to say I broke my neck and my back two years ago. And it feels dramatic to say, which I guess I need to just get more comfortable with that. But I think that just the way I was raised was like, ‘All right, brush it off and move on.’ And that’s why I think I appear a lot of times like it’s just sunshine and rainbows, but this one forced me to stop. But you have to. And the alternative is to stay at that low and that just becomes miserable.”

From therapy came a plan: Do one thing a day to feel better toward the ultimate goal of medaling in 2022.

Most days, she succeeds. When Sweeney is right, especially in sprint events, few women in the world have a chance of catching her. Her sliding career is peaking. Her mental game, she thinks, is catching up.

And now she’s got two years to put the whole package together.

“Being an Olympian was my dream since I was 7 years old,” Sweeney said. “And then I became an Olympian, and I said, ‘Well, that’s not enough. I want a medal.’”

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