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


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

Emily Sisson

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 “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

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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