Brody Malone repeats as U.S. all-around gymnastics champion, leads world team

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TAMPA — Brody Malone confirmed that he is the leader of a new era of U.S. men’s gymnastics. Donnell Whittenburg showed that his time at the top of the sport isn’t near finished.

Malone repeated as U.S. all-around champion, consolidating his breakout from 2021, when he won his senior nationals debut, then won the Olympic Trials, placed 10th in the Tokyo Olympic all-around and earned a world championships bronze medal on high bar.

The 22-year-old Stanford standout totaled 176.590 points over two nights of competition this week, distancing Whittenburg by 5.019 points. Both Malone and Whittenburg clinched spots on the five-man team for this fall’s world championships. The other three members will be finalized after an October selection camp.

It’s the second-largest margin of victory since the perfect 10 was replaced by an open-ended scoring system in 2006.

Only Sam Mikulak won by a larger amount — 5.55 points for his sixth and final all-around title in 2019. Malone ended Mikulak’s reign last year, and Mikulak retired following his third Olympics. The throne is Malone’s.

“It was never my intention to come in and take over Sam’s spot,” said Malone, a former rodeo competitor and frog gigger from a four-square-mile Georgia hometown. “It just kind of happened. I don’t want that to affect how I approach my gymnastics. I don’t even think about it.”

GYMNASTICS NATIONALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

In contrast, Whittenburg missed two Olympic teams, changed coaches and moved from Colorado to Wisconsin since the previous time he was runner-up at nationals in 2015. At 28, he can become the oldest U.S. man to win a world championships medal since Blaine Wilson in 2003.

Whittenburg, a world medalist in 2014 and 2015, thinks he would have retired had he made the Tokyo Olympic team and earned a medal there. Without him, the U.S. men earned zero Olympic medals for the first time since 2000.

“I still feel like I’m missing something,” Whittenburg, one of the world’s best on vault, said before nationals. “I’ve done just about everything you could possibly do in this sport except going to the Olympic Games. … I’m still missing that one goal.

“My mom says, as long as you can keep going, you might as well because as soon as you’re done, you’re done.”

Who will join Malone and Whittenburg on the world championships team? A committee will decide after October’s camp competitions, but 18-year-old Asher Hong made a strong case in his senior nationals debut.

Hong, who got his gymnastics start by climbing door frames like Spider-Man at age 3, was in second place going into his 12th and last routine of the meet. He had a shot to outscore Malone, his future Stanford teammate, over the second half of the competition but struggled on high bar and fell behind Whittenburg.

Still, Hong can become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009.

If Hong does make it, that will mean one of three accomplished veterans will not: Olympians Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus finished fifth and seventh, respectively, though Moldauer stands much higher if excluding difficulty bonus points awarded at nationals that will not go into scores at worlds.

Stephen Nedoroscik is the only active U.S. gymnast who owns an individual world championships gold medal. Nedoroscik competes solely on pommel horse and last October became the first American to win a world title on the event. But he said he was not at his best in Tampa and will have to hope the selection committee values his single score enough to choose him over an all-arounder for worlds.

There’s also Paul Juda, who beat Malone for the NCAA all-around title in April but missed nationals due to a bone contusion. Juda can petition for a spot in the selection camp.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three.

That’s obviously much more desirable than having to wait until 2023 Worlds, where the rest of the nine Olympic team berths are at stake (not that the U.S. is in jeopardy of not qualifying).

Though the U.S. has not made the team podium at an Olympics or worlds since 2014, it is boosted this year by the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine. In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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French Open: Novak Djokovic rolls to start Grand Slam record quest

Novak Djokovic
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Novak Djokovic began his quest for a record-breaking 23rd men’s Grand Slam singles title by beating 114th-ranked American Aleksandar Kovacevic 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (1) in the French Open first round on Monday.

Djokovic, seeded third, next gets 83rd-ranked Hungarian Marton Fucsovics. Djokovic could meet top seed Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals. They are the favorites in the absence of 14-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, whom Djokovic tied for the overall men’s Slam titles record with his 10th Australian Open crown in January.

Earlier Monday, Sloane Stephens looked sharp in her opening match with a 6-0, 6-4 win over two-time major finalist Karolina Pliskova.

While Stephens’ only Grand Slam title came at the 2017 U.S. Open, she’s also had sustained success at Roland Garros, finishing as a runner-up to Simona Halep in 2018 and reaching two quarterfinals on the red clay in Paris — including last year.

“This is my favorite court in the world, so I’m super happy to be back,” Stephens told the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier. “To start a Slam on your favorite court, your favorite surface, is always incredible.”

She helped American women go 4-0 through the first few hours of play on Day 2 of the tournament after a 1-4 start on Sunday, when the only U.S. victory came in a match between two players from the country: Jessica Pegula beat Danielle Collins.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Madison Keys, the runner-up to Stephens in New York six years ago and a semifinalist at Roland Garros in 2018, beat Kaia Kanepi 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 on Monday to improve her career record in the first round of majors to 35-5.

Keys next plays American qualifier Kayla Day, who eliminated French wild-card entry Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-1.

Also, Croatian-born American Bernarda Pera beat former No. 2-ranked Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a finalist in Paris in 2021, breezed past Czech teenager Linda Fruhvirtova 6-2, 6-2; and 22nd-seeded Donna Vekic beat qualifier Dayana Yastremska 6-2, 7-5.

Stephens was down a break in the second set against Pliskova but then won three straight games to close it out.

Stephens had a 19-16 edge in winners and committed only 10 unforced errors to 31 by Pliskova, who lost in the finals of the U.S. Open in 2016 and Wimbledon in 2021.

“This court is a bit tricky. You have to play on it a lot to understand when the wind is blowing and where it’s coming,” Stephens said. “The more you play on it, the more you understand it. But it’s a very complicated court. But that’s what makes it so amazing.”

Stephens won a small clay-court tournament in Saint Malo, France, at the start of the month and also reached the semifinals of the Morocco Open last week after only playing a total of three matches at bigger clay events in Madrid and Rome.

“Last year, my clay season wasn’t great, but I played amazing at Roland Garros last year,” Stephens said, “and this year, I really wanted to get matches and play a lot and to see where that got me.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Canada wins men’s hockey world title; Latvia wins first medal

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TAMPERE, Finland — Samuel Blais scored two goals to rally Canada to a 5-2 victory over Germany in the final of the world men’s hockey championship on Sunday.

It’s a record 28th world title for Canada, and its second in three years. Russia has 27 while Germany has never won the trophy.

Blais netted with a backhand 4:51 into the final period for a 3-2 lead for Canada, which was playing in its fourth straight final.

“It feels really good,” Blais said. “We’ve been in Europe for a month and we’ve all waited for that moment to play for the gold medal game. And we’re lucky enough to have won it.”

Lawson Crouse, Tyler Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored for Canada, Peyton Krebs had two assists and goaltender Samuel Montembeault stopped 21 shots.

Toffoli stretched the lead to 4-2 from the left circle with 8:09 remaining and Laughton made it 5-2 with an empty net goal.

Adam Fantilli became only the second Canadian player after Jonathan Toews to win gold at the world juniors and world championship the same year.

Canada had to come back twice in the final.

John Peterka wristed a shot past Montembeault from the left circle 7:44 into the game. It was the sixth goal for the Buffalo Sabres forward at the tournament.

Blais was fed by Krebs to beat goaltender Mathias Niederberger and tie it 1-1 at 10:47.

Daniel Fischbuch put the Germans ahead again with a one-timer with 6:13 to go in the middle period.

Crouse equalized on a power play with 2:32 remaining in the frame.

It was the first medal for Germany since 1953 when it was second behind Sweden.

The two previously met just once in the final with Canada winning 6-1 in 1930.

LATVIA GETS BRONZE

Defenseman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to a 4-3 victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.

It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.

The U.S. lost in the bronze medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal 4-3 in overtime.

Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at 3 to force overtime.

Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.

Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.

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