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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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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Mikaela Shiffrin runner-up in Lake Louise downhill

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LAKE LOUISE, Alberta (AP) — Here’s a scary thought for her competition: Mikaela Shiffrin is still getting comfortable with the intensity and the speed of the downhill.

That’s why podium finishes are still a little surprising even to her.

The American three-time overall World Cup champion finished runner-up to Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria in a downhill race Saturday. Schmidhofer cruised through the course in 1 minute, 49.92 seconds to edge Shiffrin by 0.13 seconds. Francesca Marsaglia of Italy wound up third.

Schmidhofer has four career World Cup wins, with three of them arriving at Lake Louise.

Known as a tech specialist, Shiffrin is steadily getting up to speed in the speed events. This was Shiffrin’s fourth career World Cup podium finish in the downhill, which includes a Lake Louise win in 2017.

So, does Shiffrin anticipate this kind of downhill success?

“No, no, no,” the 24-year-old from Colorado said. “It’s certainly not normal (for a downhill podium). Even racing downhill doesn’t feel normal. But I feel every year like I have more experience and get more comfortable.”

Shiffrin currently sits at 62 World Cup wins, which ties her with Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for second-most on the women’s side. Lindsey Vonn had 82 wins before her retirement.

“I’m certainly more comfortable with the long skis,” Shiffrin said of downhill racing. “Right now, it’s enjoying it, because speed is a little bit extra for me. My goal is to be able to succeed in speed as well. It’s making the transition and trying to have fun with it.”

Czech Republic skier and snowboarder Ester Ledecka finished fourth Saturday. She was the surprise winner of Friday’s season-opening downhill, which was delayed and shortened by heavy snowfall on the mountain. The race Saturday was restored to its full length.

Next up, a super-G on Sunday.

“It’s always been a little bit tricky for me from downhill skis to super-G skis and to change the timing a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “I’m going to have fun.”

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