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


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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Kaori Sakamoto wins figure skating worlds; top American places fourth

Kaori Sakamoto

Kaori Sakamoto became the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world championships and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.

Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama, overcoming a late jumping error in Friday’s free skate to win by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea. Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.

Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.

She appeared en route to a runaway victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the victory in doubt. She can be thankful for a 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.

Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.

Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest world medalist since 2014. After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three. Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season.

American Amber Glenn was 12th in her worlds debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.

The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.

Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.

Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.

“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”

Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.

“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the International Skating Union, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.

Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

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2023 World Figure Skating Championships results


2023 World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama, Japan, top 10 and notable results …

Gold: Kaori Sakamoto (JPN) — 224.61
Silver: Lee Hae-In (KOR) — 220.94
Bronze: Loena Hendrickx (BEL) — 210.42
4. Isabeau Levito (USA) — 207.65
5. Mai Mihara (JPN) — 205.70
6. Kim Chae-Yeon (KOR) — 203.51
7. Nicole Schott (GER) — 197.76
8. Kimmy Repond (SUI) — 194.09
9. Niina Petrokina (EST) — 193.49
10. Rinka Watanabe (JPN) — 192.81
12. Amber Glenn (USA) — 188.33
15. Bradie Tennell (USA) — 184.14

Men (Short Program)
1. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 104.63
2. Ilia Malinin (USA) — 100.38
3. Cha Jun-Hwan (KOR) — 99.64
4. Keegan Messing (CAN) — 98.75
5. Kevin Aymoz (FRA) — 95.56
6. Jason Brown (USA) — 94.17
7. Kazuki Tomono (JPN) — 92.68
8. Daniel Grassl (ITA) — 86.50
9. Lukas Britschgi (SUI) — 86.18
10. Vladimir Litvintsev (AZE) — 82.71
17. Sota Yamamoto (JPN) — 75.48
22. Andrew Torgashev (USA) — 71.41


Gold: Riku Miura/Ryuichi Kihara (JPN) — 222.16
Silver: Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 217.48
Bronze: Sara Conti/Niccolo Macii (ITA) — 208.08
4. Deanna Stellato-Dudek/Maxime Deschamps (CAN) — 199.97
5. Emily Chan/Spencer Howe (USA) — 194.73
6. Lia Pereira/Trennt Michaud (CAN) — 193.00
7. Maria Pavlova/Alexei Sviatchenko (HUN) — 190.67
8. Anastasia Golubova/Hektor Giotopoulos Moore (AUS) — 189.47
9. Annika Hocke/Robert Kunkel (GER) — 184.60
10. Alisa Efimova/Ruben Blommaert (GER) — 184.46
12. Ellie Kam/Danny O’Shea (USA) — 175.59

Ice Dance (Rhythm Dance)
1. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 91.94
2. Charlene Guignard/Marco Fabbri (ITA) — 88.21
3. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 87.34
4. Lilah Fear/Lewis Gibson (GBR) — 86.56
5. Laurence Fournier Beaudry/Nikolaj Soerensen (CAN) — 85.59
6. Caroline Green/Michael Parsons (USA) — 78.74
7. Allison Reed/Saulius Ambrulevicius (LTU) — 78.70
8. Juulia Turkkila/Matthias Versluis (FIN) — 76.97
9. Natalie Taschlerova/Filip Taschler (CZE) — 76.56
10. Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko (USA) — 75.24
11. Kana Muramoto/Daisuke Takahashi (JPN) — 72.92

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