Simone Biles chases one more record to close world gymnastics championships

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STUTTGART, Germany — Simone Biles may have dropped the mic, but she can still win four more medals and break yet another record at the world gymnastics championships.

Biles, after earning her 21st and 22nd career world medals in the team and all-around events, competes in all four apparatus finals between Saturday and Sunday. She is one medal shy of the record 23 held by 1990s Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo. Biles’ medals are kept in a safe.

Scherbo, though, competed at world championships in six years to Biles’ five. Scherbo also had the benefit of six apparatus finals for the men, versus four for the women.

Saturday’s finals: the vault (Biles is the favorite) and uneven bars (Biles qualified in seventh place), live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 10 a.m. ET.

Sunday’s finals: balance beam and floor exercise. Biles had the highest score in qualifying in both events. That streams live on OlympicChannel.com at 7 a.m. ET, with a TV broadcast on Olympic Channel at 12 p.m. ET.

GYM WORLDS: TV Schedule | Finals Results

Biles earned medals in every event last year, becoming the first gymnast to do so at worlds in 31 years. Some of her toughest competition this weekend will come from teammates.

On vault, Jade Carey had the top qualifying score by .001 over Biles. However, scores are cleared for the eight-woman final, and Biles has the ability to up her difficulty.

Bars is the only event that Biles has never won on the global stage. She earned her first world medal last year, a silver. But she was a distant half-point behind winner Nina Derwael of Belgium, who again had the highest score in qualifying this year, with a three tenths edge on Biles in difficulty.

There’s also American Sunisa Lee, who beat Biles on bars at the U.S. Championships in August and the world team selection camp in September. Lee qualified third into the bars final with the second-highest difficulty score.

Biles struggled on beam at the Rio Olympics and 2018 Worlds, making significant errors (though not falling off) en route to bronze medals. She’s hit beam so far this week, posting the top score in qualifying, the team final and the all-around.

“After Rio, I kind of trashed myself and my beam work that I did, and I wasn’t the most confident,” said Biles, who took 14 months off from training after the Olympics, changing coaches to Laurent and Cecile Landi when she came back. “[Cecile] really helped me bring that back to life. And I feel confident again for, like, the first time.”

Biles said she is 99 percent sure these are her last world championships, likely making the Tokyo Olympics her final competition. Her next competition likely will not be until late winter or early spring.

“I’m probably more confident today than going into the [Rio] Olympics,” she said.

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

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier top pairs’ short at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier
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World champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier lead after the pairs’ short program in what may be their last U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Knierim and Frazier, who last March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979, tallied 81.96 points to open the four-day nationals on Thursday.

They lead by 15.1 over Emily Chan and Spencer Howe going into Saturday’s free skate in San Jose, California. The top three teams from last year’s event — which Knierim and Frazier missed due to him contracting COVID-19 — are no longer competing together.

After nationals, a committee selects three U.S. pairs for March’s world championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Before the fall Grand Prix Series, the 31-year-old Knierim said this will probably be their last season competing together, though the pair also thought they were done last spring. They don’t expect to make a final decision until after a Stars on Ice tour this spring.

“I don’t like to just put it out there and say it is the last or not going to be the last because life just has that way of throwing curveballs, and you just never know,” Frazier said this month. “But I would say that this is the first nationals where I’m going to go in really trying to soak up every second as if it is my last because you just don’t know.”

Knierim is going for a fifth U.S. title, which would tie the record for a pairs’ skater since World War II, joining Kyoka Ina, Tai Babilonia, Randy Gardner, Karol Kennedy and Peter Kennedy. Knierim’s first three titles, and her first Olympics in 2018, were with husband Chris, who retired in 2020.

Knierim is also trying to become the first female pairs’ skater in her 30s to win a national title since 1993. Knierim and ice dancer Madison Chock are trying to become the first female skaters in their 30s to win a U.S. title in any discipline since 1995.

After being unable to defend their 2021 U.S. title last year, Knierim and Frazier reeled off a series of historic results in what had long been the country’s weakest discipline.

They successfully petitioned for an Olympic spot and placed sixth at the Games, best for a U.S. pair since 2002. They considered retirement after their world title, which was won without the top five teams from the Olympics in attendance. They returned in part to compete as world champions and to give back to U.S. skating, helping set up younger pairs for success.

They became the first U.S. pair to win two Grand Prix Series events, then in December became the first U.S. pair to make a Grand Prix Final podium (second place). The world’s top pairs were absent; Russians banned due to the war in Ukraine and Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong from China leaving competition ice (for now).

Knierim and Frazier’s real test isn’t nationals. It’s worlds, where they will likely be the underdog to home favorites Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara, who edged the Americans by 1.3 points in the closest Grand Prix Final pairs’ competition in 12 years.

Nationals continue with the rhythm dance and women’s short program later Thursday.

NBC Sports’ Sarah Hughes (not the figure skater) contributed to this report.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships scores, results

2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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Full scores and results from the 2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in San Jose …

Pairs Short Program
1. Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier — 81.96
2. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe — 66.86
3. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea —- 65.75
4. Valentina Plazas/Maximiliano Fernandez — 63.45
5. Sonia Baram/Danil Tioumentsev —- 63.12
6. Katie McBeath/Nathan Bartholomay —- 56.96
7. Nica Digerness/Mark Sadusky — 50.72
8. Maria Mokhova/Ivan Mokhov —- 46.96
9. Grace Hanns / Danny Neudecker — 46.81
10. Linzy Fitzpatrick/Keyton Bearinger — 45.27
11. Nina Ouellette/Rique Newby-Estrella — 43.99

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Broadcast Schedule | New Era for U.S.

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