Angelina Melnikova is first non-American to win gymnastics world title in over a decade

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Angelina Melnikova won the women’s all-around title at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships on Thursday in Kitakyushu, Japan.

Representing the Russian Gymnastics Federation (as Russia is currently banned from Olympic and world championship competition), Melnikova outscored the field by 0.292 points for her first global all-around win nearly three months after earning bronze at the Tokyo Olympics and two years after taking bronze at the 2019 World Championships. She also won team gold and floor exercise bronze in Tokyo.

The 21-year-old has qualified for all four individual event finals in Kitakyushu as well.

“I’m very happy with this result because I only had one month to prepare,” Melnikova said, according to reports. “I feel like I made history tonight. I would be very happy if I could get five gold medals here.”

Melnikova is the first Russian to win the world or Olympic all-around title since Aliya Mustafina in 2010 and also the first non-American to do so following an 11-year era largely dominated by Simone Biles.

Jordyn Wieber began the Americans’ reign at the 2011 World Championships, then Gabby Douglas won the Olympic gold the following year. Biles won worlds in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019, plus the Olympic all-around gold in 2016. Morgan Hurd earned it in 2017, Biles’ only full season off since her senior debut in 2013, and Suni Lee was this year’s Olympic champion after Biles withdrew from most of the Tokyo finals to focus on her mental health and overcome a case of the twisties.

With Biles and Lee not at the 2021 Worlds – the former crossing the country on her Gold Over America Tour and the latter competing on “Dancing with the Stars” while beginning Auburn schoolwork – it was time for a new group of Americans to shine.

While they were unable to continue the winninf streak, Olympic alternates Leanne Wong and Kayla DiCello landed on the podium, giving the U.S. two of the three women’s all-around medals in six of the last nine world or Olympic competitions.

Melnikova had the highest score of the day on uneven bars (14.533) and was second on the other three apparatuses.

Wong, 18, earned silver with an all-around score of 56.34 points thanks to her high scores on balance beam (13.9) and floor exercise (14.033). She was third on uneven bars and fifth on vault.

Wong spent most of her Olympic experience in quarantine after her roommate, Kara Eaker, tested positive for Covid-19.

The 17-year-old DiCello took bronze with 54.566 points and had the top score on vault (14.6).

“I’m really happy with this experience since last time (in Tokyo) I didn’t even really get to work out,” Wong said. “I think we did a really good job for the next generation and setting the stage.”

The Tokyo Olympic silver medalist, Rebecca Andrade of Brazil, chose not to compete in the all-around due to injury but is qualified for the balance beam, uneven bars and vault finals.

DiCello and Wong are both in this weekend’s balance beam and floor finals.

The men’s all-around final is Friday. Reigning Olympic all-around champion Daiki Hashimoto of Japan qualified first, followed by China’s Zhang Boheng and Turkey’s Adem Asil. Yul Moldauer is the lone American in the final; he was 13th in qualification.

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Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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