U.S. women’s gymnastics team, sans Simone Biles for first time in a decade, eyes world title

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The last time a U.S. women’s gymnastics team competed on the highest level without a single Simone Biles routine, it was near the start of the program’s decade of dominance at the 2012 London Games.

There is no Biles on the entry list for the world championships that start with qualifying Saturday in Liverpool, England. There is no Suni Lee, who succeeded Biles as Olympic all-around champion in Tokyo. Both are on indefinite, possibly permanent, breaks from elite gymnastics.

There is also no Konnor McClain, who won the U.S. all-around title in August, then withdrew from world championships team consideration with a back injury.

Yet the U.S. is still favored to win a sixth consecutive world team title dating to 2011, which would break its tie with Romania for the longest streak in history, for a combination of reasons.

Russia, which relegated the U.S. to silver at the Olympics, is banned due to the war in Ukraine. The American team of five is reliable, stocked with veterans.

“The beauty of this women’s team is that they might not have a Simone that is in a different stratosphere from the world, but they’ve got a high floor,” said NBC Sports’ John Roethlisberger, a three-time Olympian.

GYMNASTICS WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

The U.S., set for the team final on Tuesday, still boasts one of the top two gymnasts of the entire field in Liverpool: Shilese Jones, who considered quitting elite gymnastics after placing 10th in the all-around at last year’s Olympic Trials.

An American woman won every Olympic or world all-around title from 2011 through the Tokyo Games, with Biles gobbling six of those 10 crowns. Angelina Melnikova, who snapped that streak at last October’s worlds, is absent this year due to the Russia ban.

Still, an American victory in the all-around is more in doubt than in the team event. That’s because of Brazilian Rebeca Andrade, who took a close silver to Lee in Tokyo and passed on doing the all-around at last year’s worlds.

Andrade and fellow veteran Flavia Saraiva lead a Brazilian group that could win the nation’s first team medal at an Olympics or worlds. At the last worlds with a team event in 2019, Brazil placed 14th, failing to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

Now, Brazil is right up with podium regular China to challenge the Americans, should they make mistakes. At the peak of the Biles-led era, the U.S. won a team competition by more than eight points. That margin meant U.S. gymnasts could have fallen on half of their routines and still prevailed.

That is not the case anymore, evidenced by Russia’s victory at the Tokyo Olympics, where Biles withdrew with the twisties after her opening vault.

“Certainly they don’t have this aura of invincibility,” Roethlisberger said. “But I think they maybe have a little bit of a, I don’t want to say chip on their shoulder, because I don’t know if they think about it that in-depth. But, ‘Hey, we’re still the best, and we’re going to show you.'”

Given the absences of Biles, Lee and McClain, the U.S. might not be favored if not for the recent proliferation of gymnasts balancing elite gymnastics with NCAA gymnastics, which have different scoring systems and, usually, different routines.

Tokyo medalists Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles, plus 2021 World all-around silver medalist Leanne Wong, make up three-fifths of the U.S. team. All are coming off their freshman years and are expected to return to college competition this winter and early spring. No U.S. woman has competed at an Olympics, then competed in college and then made it back for another Olympics since NCAA women’s gymnastics began in the early 1980s.

Like the women, the U.S. men compete in a major team event for the first time since their stalwart (the retired Sam Mikulak) stepped away from competition.

They, too, will benefit from the absence of Olympic champion Russia, which likely opens up a place on the podium below Japan and China. The U.S. last earned a men’s team medal in 2014.

Brody Malone, who supplanted Mikulak as the top U.S. male gymnast last year, leads a team that’s a mix of youth and experience with a major strength on vault and a concern on high bar. Keys in the three-up, three-count team final on Wednesday will be limiting mistakes on those first two high bar routines before Malone and from the leadoff man on pommel horse.

“If those three routines can somehow get a 13 or above,” Roethlisberger said, “I think they’re going to win a medal.”

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2022 Grand Prix Final figure skating TV, live stream schedule

Ilia Malinin
Getty
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The Grand Prix Final, the most exclusive figure skating competition of the season and a preview of March’s world championships, airs live on Peacock and E! this week.

The top six per discipline from the six-event fall Grand Prix Series gather in Turin, Italy, at the Palavela, the 2006 Olympic venue. It’s the first Grand Prix Final in three years after the 2020 and 2021 events were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. qualified skaters in all four disciplines for the first time since 2007, led by the world’s top-ranked man. Ilia Malinin, who turned 18 last Friday, has been the story of the season, becoming the first skater to land a quadruple Axel in competition.

Malinin, the reigning world junior champion, won both of his Grand Prix starts and posted the best total score among all fall events, edging world champion Shoma Uno of Japan. Malinin and Uno will go head-to-head for the first time this season at the Final.

Isabeau Levito, a 15-year-old world junior champion, is the youngest American at a Final since Caroline Zhang in 2007. She qualified in fifth place. The favorites are Japan’s Mai Mihara and Kaori Sakamoto and Belgian Loena Hendrickx.

The U.S. also qualified two pairs’ teams — world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier and Emily Chan and Spencer Howe — and two ice dance couples — three-time world medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker.

For the first time, the Final has no Russian skaters. They are banned from international competition due to the war in Ukraine. For the first time in 25 years, there are no Chinese skaters. China’s top pairs’ teams did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Grand Prix Final Broadcast Schedule
All TV coverage also streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Thursday Pairs’ Short Program 1:20-2:15 p.m. Peacock
Men’s Short Program 2:35-3:20 p.m. Peacock
Friday Pairs’ Free Skate 11:35 a.m.-12:40 p.m. Peacock
Rhythm Dance 1:50-2:45 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Short Program 3:05-3:50 p.m. Peacock
Saturday Men’s Short Program* 6:30-7:30 a.m. E!
Men’s Free Skate 7:30-8:30 a.m. E!, Peacock
Women’s Short Program* 8:30-9:30 a.m. E!
Free Dance 1:40-2:40 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Free Skate 3-3:55 p.m. Peacock
Sunday Highlights* 4-6 p.m. NBC

*Delayed broadcast.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde sweeps Beaver Creek World Cup races

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Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde held off Swiss Marco Odermatt for a second consecutive day to sweep World Cup races in Beaver Creek, Colorado, this weekend.

Kilde won Sunday’s super-G by two tenths of a second over Odermatt, one day after edging Odermatt by six hundredths. France’s Alexis Pinturault took third as the podium was made up of the last three men to win the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing.

This season’s overall figures to be a two-man battle between Kilde, the 2019-20 champion, and Odermatt, the reigning champion, and could come down to March’s World Cup Finals. They’ve combined to win the first five of 38 scheduled races.

The top American Sunday was River Radamus, who finished an impressive 16th given his start number was 57. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle, the Olympic super-G silver medalist, and Travis Ganong, who was third in Beaver Creek last year, both skied out.

The men’s World Cup heads next weekend to Val d’Isere, France, for a giant slalom and slalom.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

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