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.

GYM WORLDS: TV Schedule | Finals Results

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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GYM WORLDS: Women’s Finals Qualifiers | Men’s Finals Qualifiers

Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
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Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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