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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