Simone Biles ties world gymnastics championships medal record, leads U.S. one-two

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STUTTGART, Germany — Simone Biles would lose count of her world gymnastics championships medals if she wasn’t reminded of the number at nearly every interview stop in the mixed zone.

“I never think of medal counts or anything,” she said after winning her record-tying 23rd medal and record-extending 17th gold in the vault final on Saturday, the penultimate day of worlds. “I let everyone else do the counting for me.

“I couldn’t tell you how many I have if you didn’t tell me already.”

Biles was joined on the vault podium by Jade Carey, who earned her second vault silver in three years despite taking a large step out of the central landing area on her second vault.

Biles performed exquisite vaults — a Cheng and an Amanar — with just small hops on each landing. The scores — 15.333 and 15.466 — were the highest of the 16 total vaults performed by the eight women in the final. She chose not to throw her eponymous vault that carries more difficulty.

Later Saturday, Biles finished fifth on uneven bars, her weakest event, with the same score that earned her silver last year. Belgian Nina Derwael repeated as world champ. American Sunisa Lee earned her first individual world medal — a silver.

“I couldn’t be more happy,” Biles said of her day. “I’m not even mad about [bars]. I knew going into today there was a very slim chance that I would even medal.”

Biles can still break her tie with 1990s Belarusian Vitaly Scherbo for the total medals record Sunday on the balance beam or the floor exercise, the last two finals. She is the favorite on both events.

Biles has said she is 99 percent sure these will be her final worlds. That would set up the Tokyo Games to be her final competition.

“I never think, oh, this could be my last,” she said. “I kind of cherish the moment.”

In other events Saturday, French gymnast Samir Ait Said, who gruesomely broke his leg on a Rio Olympic vault landing, qualified for the Tokyo Games by earning the last available spot from the still rings final.

Said, whose father died in February, earned bronze and knocked Greek Olympic still rings champion Eleftherios Petrounias off the podium and out of an automatic Olympic spot. Petrounias can still qualify for the Olympics via another route next year. Turkey’s Ibrahim Colak took gold, his nation’s first world title.

Brit Max Whitlock earned his third world title on pommel horse. Whitlock will go to Tokyo looking to become the first repeat Olympic pommel horse champion in 40 years.

Carlos Yulo became the first Filipino gymnast to win a world title, prevailing on floor by one tenth. Yulo, 19, became the first Filipino medalist when he earned floor bronze last year.

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GYM WORLDS: TV Schedule | Finals Results

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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