Fierce Five Gymnastics
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NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week: What to watch on Thursday

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Gabby DouglasAly Raisman and the Fierce Five gymnastics team headline NBCSN Olympic Games Week programming on Thursday.

NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week, featuring more than 100 hours of Olympic programming through April 26, shifts to Return to London coverage of the 2012 Games. All coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Eight hours of coverage Thursday includes gymnastics — women’s team final (7 p.m. ET), women’s individual finals (9 p.m.), men’s all-around (11 p.m.) — and diving — men’s finals (12 a.m.) and women’s finals (1 a.m.) — plus the women’s water polo final at 2 a.m.

LIVE STREAM: NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Thursday, 7 p.m.-3 a.m. ET

In the women’s gymnastics team final, Douglas, Raisman, Jordyn WieberMcKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross became the second U.S. women’s team to win an Olympic title after the Magnificent Seven from 1996.

Some had dubbed them the Fab Five before the event, but the quintet preferred a more original moniker — the Fierce Five — coined by Maroney.

Two nights later, Douglas became the first African-American gymnast to win an Olympic all-around title.

Douglas completed a remarkable year. Ten months earlier, she missed the world championships all-around final as the third-highest-scoring American in qualifying and was used on one of four events in the team final. She was the only American to go on all four events in the Olympic team final.

The following week, Maroney earned a vault silver medal (and, perhaps more memorably, looked unimpressed on the medal stand). Raisman, the team captain, earned two more medals — bronze on the balance beam and gold on floor exercise.

In the men’s all-around, Japan’s Kohei Uchimura completed a perfect Olympic cycle, adding gold to his three world all-around titles. American Danell Leyva rallied from 11th place after four rotations to post the highest scores of the night on parallel bars and high bar, snatching the bronze medal.

In diving, the U.S. earned its first Olympic medals since the 2000 Sydney Games. All three synchronized teams made the podium in events won by the dominant Chinese. Then, on the penultimate day of the Games, David Boudia performed the highest-scoring dive of the platform final on his sixth and final dive to take gold by a scant 1.80 points. Boudia had qualified last out of 18 divers out of the preliminaries.

The women’s water polo final pitted the U.S. against Spain. In the first three editions of Olympic women’s water polo, a favored U.S. team was relegated to silver or bronze in 2000, 2004 and 2008. This time, the Americans again appeared vulnerable, tying Spain in group play and needing overtime to get past Australia in the semifinals. They passed the final test, however, taking a 7-2 lead through three quarters and prevailing 8-5.

MORE: Full Olympic Games Week TV, live stream schedule

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NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Thursday, April 16

Time (ET) Program Events Live Stream
7 p.m. Return to London Women’s Gymnastics Team Final STREAM LINK
9 p.m. Return to London Women’s Gymnastics Individual Finals STREAM LINK
11 p.m. Return to London Men’s Gymnastics All-Around STREAM LINK
12 a.m. Return to London Men’s Diving STREAM LINK
1 a.m. Return to London Women’s Diving STREAM LINK
2 a.m. Return to London Women’s Water Polo Final STREAM LINK

Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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