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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