Mai Murakami wins world title, announces retirement as gymnastics worlds ends

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Mai Murakami won an Olympic medal and two world championship medals in under three months — and then retired.

The 25-year-old Japanese gymnast announced she had ended her career after medaling in both women’s event finals held Sunday, the final day of the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships.

With the Olympics held in Tokyo, where she took bronze on floor exercise, and worlds in Kitakyushu, she went out with some of her greatest accomplishments taking place in her home country.

Already the 2017 world champion on floor and 2018 world all-around silver medalist, Murakami added the balance beam bronze and another floor title to her resume before calling it a career.

Eighteen-year-old Olympic teammate Urara Ashikawa won the beam gold with a score of 14.1, followed by Germany’s Pauline Schaefer-Betz, who won it four years prior, with 13.8 and Murakami’s 13.733.

American Leanne Wong, the all-around silver medalist earlier in the meet, was 0.4 off the podium in fourth. All-around bronze medalist Kayla DiCello was eighth.

Murakami later won floor gold with a score of 14.066 and the greatest difficulty, 15.8, in the final. All-around world champion Angelina Melnikova, representing the Russian Gymnastics Federation while Russia is banned from world championship events, took silver (14.0) for her third medal in Kitakyushu while Wong also returned to the podium with a score of 13.833. DiCello was fifth (13.633).

Carlos Yulo won the first men’s final of the night, adding a vault gold medal to his 2019 floor one. The Filipino’s win marked the first for his nation on vault. His 14.916 two-vault average topped Japan’s Hidenobu Yonekura (14.866) and Andrey Medvedev (14.649) of Israel, both winning their first world medals – the latter at 31.

China’s Hu Xuwei then won the final two men’s world titles, the first of his career, becoming the only two-time 2021 world champion.

His parallel bars routine scored 15.466 points, ahead of Yulo’s 15.3 and Shi Cong‘s 15.066. American Yul Moldauer, who was fourth in the all-around, was fifth with 15.0.

Hu’s high bar score of 15.166 beat out Olympic all-around champion Daiki Hashimoto (15.066) and 21-year-old Brody Malone of the U.S. (14.966), who won a tiebreaker over fourth place Carlo Macchini of Italy.

Hashimoto leaves worlds with all-around silver and high bar silver after taking gold in both events in Tokyo, plus team silver.

Malone, a relative unknown before this year, ends his long 2021 campaign with the NCAA all-around, high bar and team titles, U.S. Championships all-around and vault wins, all-around and high bar victories at Olympic Trials, fourth place on high bar at the Tokyo Olympics and now a world medal on the apparatus.

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Svetlana Romashina, seven-time Olympic champion artistic swimmer, retires

Svetlana Romashina
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Russian Svetlana Romashina, the most decorated artistic swimmer in Olympic history with seven gold medals, announced her retirement at age 33.

Romashina entered seven Olympic artistic swimming events and won all of them, starting in 2008. She won four Olympic titles in the team event and three in the duet (two with Nataliya Ishchenko and one with Svetlana Kolesnichenko).

The Tokyo Games marked her last major competition.

Romashina is the only woman to go undefeated in her Olympic career while entering seven or more events. The only man to do so was American track and field athlete Ray Ewry, who won all eight of his Olympic starts from 1900-08, according to Olympedia.org.

Romashina also won 21 world championships medals — all gold, second in aquatics history behind Michael Phelps‘ 26.

She took nearly two years off after giving birth to daughter Alexandra in November 2017, then came back to win three golds at her last world championships in 2019 and two golds at her last Olympics in 2021.

Romashina is now an artistic swimming coach, according to Russian media.

Russian swimmers swept the Olympic duet and team titles at each of the last six Olympics.

Russians have been banned from international competition since March due to the war in Ukraine.

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Mikaela Shiffrin, three gates from gold, skis out of world championships combined

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Mikaela Shiffrin was three gates from a record-tying seventh world championships gold medal when she lost her balance and straddled a gate, skiing out of the first race of worlds on Monday.

Italian Federica Brignone won the women’s combined instead, prevailing by 1.62 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener, the largest Olympic or world championships men’s or women’s margin of victory in the event since it switched from three runs to two in 2007.

Austrian Ricarda Haaser took bronze in an event that is one run of super-G followed by one run of slalom.

At 32, Brignone, the 2020 World Cup overall champion, won her first global title and became the oldest female world champion in any event.

“What was missing in my career was a gold medal,” she said. “So I’m old. No, I’m just kidding.”

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Shiffrin was sixth fastest in the opening super-G run, 96 hundredths behind Brignone. She skied aggressively in the slalom in a bid to beat Brignone. Shiffrin cut the gap to eight hundredths by the last intermediate split with about 10 seconds left on the course in Meribel, France.

Shiffrin looked set to overtake Brignone until tripping up slightly with five gates left. It compounded, and Shiffrin couldn’t save the run, losing control, straddling the third-to-last gate and skiing out. The timing system still registered her finish — 34 hundredths faster than Brignone — but it was quickly corrected to the obvious disqualification.

Asked on French TV if she lost focus, Shiffrin said, “People are going to say that no matter what.”

“The surface changed a little bit on these last gates, so [on pre-race] inspection I saw it’s a bit more unstable on the snow,” she added. “I tried to be aware of that, but I knew that if I had a chance to make up nine tenths on Federica, or more than that, like one second, I had to push like crazy. So I did, and I had a very good run. I’m really happy with my skiing.”

It marked Shiffrin’s first time skiing out since she did so in three races at last February’s Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth in five races. At the Olympics, she skied out within the first 13 seconds in each instance. On Monday, she was more than 40 seconds into her run.

“I was thinking, now I’m going to go through the mixed zone. and everyone’s going to ask, ‘Oh, is this Beijing again?'” Shiffrin said. “I didn’t really think about that for myself, but more for the people asking. But I also said before, coming into this world champs multiple times, I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run? What happened last year, and I survived. And then I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season. So I would take the season that I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I would take that. I’m happy with it. But I’m going to be pushing for medals, because that’s what you do at world champs. You wear your heart on your sleeve, and you go for it. I’m not afraid of the consequences, as long as I have that mentality, which I had today.”

NBC Sports analyst Steve Porino said what happened Monday was “completely different” from the Olympics, calling it “an error of aggression.”

“It certainly wasn’t nerves that sent her out,” Porino said on the Peacock broadcast. “This was Shiffrin knowing that she had to have a huge run to get the gold medal.

“The way she went out this time, I think she can brush that one off.”

Shiffrin was bidding to tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12). Coming into Monday, she earned a medal in her last 10 world championships races dating to 2015.

Her next chance to match those records comes in Wednesday’s super-G, where she is a medal contender. Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel is the world’s top-ranked super-G skier through five races on the World Cup this season, though she was 71 hundredths behind Brignone in Monday’s super-G run.

Shiffrin has raced two super-Gs this season with a win and a seventh place.

She is expected to race three more times over the two-week worlds, which is separate from the World Cup circuit that she has torn up this season.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup wins in 23 starts across all disciplines since November, moving her one shy of the career victories record of 86 accumulated by Swede Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and ’80s. Again, world championships races do not count toward the World Cup, which picks back up after worlds end in late February.

Worlds continue Tuesday with the men’s combined.

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