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

Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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