Nikita Nagornyy wins gymnastics world all-around; Sam Mikulak misses medal

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STUTTGART, Germany — Russia is dominating men’s gymnastics like no other time since the breakup of the Soviet Union. It’s bringing swagger back, too.

“It’s just a different time, get used to it,” Nikita Nagornyy said after leading a Russian one-two in the world championships all-around final on Friday, two days after Russia won its first world team title since the Soviet era. He planned to celebrate with a cup of coffee and pasta bolognese.

Nagornyy and Artur Dalaloyan, the gold and silver medalists, represent a new, victorious time for the Russian program. They are young, 22 and 23, They are tattooed. Nagornyy is married to fellow Olympic medalist Daria Spiridonova. Dalaloyan is engaged with a daughter.

“I don’t have any more emotions because we put all of them into the team competition,” Nagornyy said after winning the all-around by 1.607 points over Dalaloyan, the 2018 World all-around champion who nearly sat down his vault.

Ukrainian Oleg Verniaiev, who missed gold in Rio by .099, took bronze after seeing 2017 World champ Xiao Ruoteng of China and American Sam Mikulak drop in the standings.

GYM WORLDS: TV Schedule | Finals Results

Mikulak was seventh, again seeing medal hopes dashed by a critical late mistake, coming off the pommel horse. He was 1.282 points out of a medal after incurring that point penalty for falling on a skill he believed he needed to contend.

It was kind of just rolling the dice a little bit,” said Mikulak, who has finished fifth, sixth and seventh (twice) in Olympic or world all-arounds, but never made the medal stand. “If [it] had been the perfect skill, I would have been second or third.”

Mikulak, a two-time Olympian and six-time U.S. champion, led at the halfway point and was in fourth place when he came off the horse in the fifth of six rotations. He eked into the final in 27th place in qualifying, where he fell four times.

He left the competition with an award, though, a watch in a box for the Longines Prize for Elegance. However, if Mikulak does not earn a medal in Sunday’s high bar final, it will mark the first Olympics or world championships that the U.S. failed to make a men’s event podium since 2009.

Nagornyy will like this statistic going into the Tokyo Games: The last four men to win the world all-around title the year before the Olympics went on to win the Olympic title: Paul HammYang Wei and Kohei Uchimura twice.

Uchimura, the Japanese legend with a record six world all-around titles, is absent from a worlds for the first time since 2007, missing the Japanese team while injured. He is questionable to make the Olympic team despite being one of Japan’s most recognizable athletes.

This is the first year China and Japan were shut out of the team and all-around gold medals at an Olympics or worlds since 1992.

Japan’s results the last two years have been especially concerning a year before it hosts the Olympics — bronze in the team event and a top finish of sixth in the all-around, its worst collective results since 2001.

Nagornyy, though young, saw that Japanese dominance up close at the Rio Games. He has the date of the Rio Olympic team final tattooed in Roman numerals on the inside of his left forearm, celebrating Russia’s first Olympic team medal since 2000 (a silver).

He has another tattoo on his ribs, “salvame y guardame,” which roughly translates to “save and protect me” in Spanish and is a common Russian Orthodox phrase.

Will he get another to commemorate these last two gold medals, or perhaps one in Tokyo?

“I will think about it,” he said. “We should not say anything in advance. We just need to work, and our work will show if it is possible or not.”

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

UCI looks for new host for 2020 World Road Cycling Championships

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The International Cycling Union (UCI) is looking for a new host for the 2020 World Road Cycling Championships due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Switzerland can no longer host the week-long event in late September after a national decision to extend a ban on events with more than 1,000 people through next month.

Amid reports the competition has been canceled, the UCI clarified Wednesday that it still hopes to hold it in some form, perhaps without some of the junior or senior races.

It now seeks an “alternative project,” preferably still in Europe and on the same dates (Sept. 20-27).

Worlds were due to start in Switzerland on the same day that the rescheduled Tour de France ends, though the senior elite men’s races are typically not on the first three days.

The Tour de France is still scheduled to start Aug. 29.

Last year, American Chloe Dygert starred at road worlds, winning the time trial in dominant fashion. Other world champions in Olympic events: Annemiek van Vleuten (road race), Rohan Dennis (time trial) and Mads Pedersen (road race).

MORE: Chloe Dygert had the most dominant ride in history. It still drives her nuts.

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Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15 in 2000

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In the biggest race of his young life, a 15-year-old Michael Phelps turned for the last 50 meters in fourth place of the U.S. Olympic Trials 200m butterfly final on Aug. 12, 2000.

His mom, Debbie, couldn’t watch. She turned away from the Indianapolis Natatorium pool and stared at the scoreboard. Both Debbie and Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, mentally prepared their consolation speeches for the rising Towson High School sophomore outside Baltimore.

Then Phelps, fueled by nightly Adam’s Mark chicken sandwich-and-cheesecake room service and amped by pre-race DMX on his CD player, turned it on. He zoomed into second place, becoming the youngest U.S. male swimmer to qualify for an Olympics since 1932.

Phelps had “come out of nowhere in the last six months” to become an Olympic hopeful, NBC Sports swimming commentator Dan Hicks said on the broadcast. True, Phelps chopped five and a half seconds off his personal best that March.

“He doesn’t know what it means to go to the Olympics and how it’s going to change his life,” Tom Malchow, the 1996 Olympic silver medalist who held off Phelps in that trials final, said that night, according to The Associated Press. “He’s going to find out soon.”

Phelps, who did his trademark arm flaps before the trials final, made Bowman look like a prophet. Four years earlier, the coach sat Debbie down for a conversation she would not soon forget.

“Told me what he projected for Michael,” Debbie said, according to the Baltimore Sun‘s front-page story on a local 15-year-old qualifying for the Sydney Games. “He said that in 2004, he would definitely be a factor in the Olympics. He also said that he could be there in 2000, to watch out for him. At the time, he was only 11.”

The trials were bittersweet for the Phelps family. Whitney, one of Phelps’ older sisters, withdrew before the meet with herniated discs in her back that kept her from making an Olympics after competing in the 1994 World Championships at age 14.

After Phelps qualified for the Olympics, one of the first people to embrace him was Whitney on the pool deck.

The next week, Phelps, still with bottom-teeth braces, did his first live TV sitdown on CNN, swiveling in his chair the whole time, according to his autobiography, “Beneath the Surface.”

The next month, Phelps finished fifth in his Olympic debut, clocking a then-personal-best time that would have earned gold or silver at every previous Olympics.

Following the Olympic race, gold medalist Malchow patted Phelps on the back, according to “No Limits,” another Phelps autobiography. What did Malchow say?

“The best is ahead of you.”

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