Riley McCusker

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Weekend Gymnastics Roundup: Carey and McCusker on World Cup podium

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World medalists Jade Carey and Riley McCusker headlined gymnastics action over the weekend as the World Cup circuit continued with an all-around competition in Birmingham, England, and an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar.

Carey won both the vault and floor events in Doha, pushing her to the top of the standings on both apparatus (she also won the vault and floor competitions the previous weekend at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan).

Doha marked the halfway point of apparatus World Cups, putting Carey in a promising position to qualify for the Tokyo Games heading into the next four events. The apparatus World Cup series includes a total of eight competitions spread over two seasons, and one gymnast per apparatus will qualify for the Olympics based on his or her top three results across the eight events.

Carey, 18, was the 2017 world silver medalist on vault and floor. But she opted not to try for a spot on the 2018 World Championships team due to the International Gymnastics Federation’s rules that active team members who help their countries qualify team spots for Tokyo (as the U.S. women did in November) cannot earn individual spots. Carey, an apparatus specialist rather than an all-around gymnast, chose the World Cup route to keep open her options of qualifying individually.

McCusker, who was part of the U.S. team that won the world title last year, finished second at the all-around World Cup in Birmingham, posting the top scores on the uneven bars and floor. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist, won the event. Mustafina bounced back from a shaky showing last weekend at the World Cup in Stuttgart, where she finished fifth in an event won by Simone Biles. Mustafina, 24, is trying to qualify for her third Olympics after giving birth to daughter Alisa in June 2017.

The all-around World Cup circuit continues on April 7 in Tokyo, Japan, where two-time world all-around medalist Morgan Hurd and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak are expected to compete.

Simone Biles, U.S. gymnastics team win world title by record margin

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The U.S. women’s gymnastics team is as dominant as ever. All the more impressive considering everything that’s happened off the competition floor since we last saw it at the Rio Olympics.

The Simone Biles-anchored five-woman team won the world championship in Doha on Tuesday by the largest margin under the 12-year-old scoring system. Biles, Morgan HurdRiley McCuskerGrace McCallum and Kara Eaker combined for 171.629 points with zero falls.

The Americans routed silver medalist Russia by 8.766 points, crushing the previous record margin of victory of 6.693 set in 2014. It also beat the Olympic record of 8.209 set by the U.S. in Rio. China rallied past Brazil for bronze on the last rotation.

The records are under the Code of Points, which replaced the perfect-10 judging system in 2006.

The U.S. has won six straight Olympic or world titles dating to 2011, the longest dynasty in the event since the Soviet Union teams of the 1970s. In 72 routines, they’ve counted zero falls.

This was the first title since the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes became public, with hundreds of survivors coming forward (including Biles and eight more Olympians), and three USA Gymnastics CEOs stepping down amid the fallout. Plus the end of the Karolyi era, revamping the national-team program.

GYM WORLDS: Results | TV Schedule

The rout was inevitable after the U.S. women distanced Russia by nearly nine points in qualifying over the weekend.

Biles, competing with a kidney stone she named the “Doha Pearl,” tied Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman for the U.S. record of four Olympic/world team titles. She is the only U.S. Olympian who has returned to elite competition since Rio.

“I’m really proud. It’s been a long year to get here,” said Biles, who resumed training last Nov. 1 after a year off following her four golds in Rio. “I’m really proud of the rookies we have on the team, and of course the veteran coming back.”

She had the highest scores on vault, uneven bars and floor exercise. Biles lost a half-point on balance beam for putting her hand on the beam to keep from falling off after a piked front somersault.

“I get a little jittery every time I go into that skill because it’s near the end, and I know what I’m capable of,” Biles said, according to the International Gymnastics Federation. “I don’t know why I get so shy on that skill.”

Hurd, McCusker, McCallum and Eaker earned their first team golds. Hurd is the only one from that group who previously competed at worlds, winning the all-around during Biles’ break last year in Montreal, where there was no team event.

“It’s what I’ve been working for my entire life,” the 17-year-old McCusker said in a USA Gymnastics interview.

Next up? Individual finals, beginning with the men’s and women’s all-around the next two days.

Biles goes for a record-breaking fourth women’s world all-around gold on Thursday, where her closest rival from qualifying was Hurd (a distant 4.5 points behind).

Then on Friday and Saturday, Biles will likely try to become the first woman to earn six medals at a single worlds since Soviet Yelena Shushunova in 1987. The last woman to do it at the Olympics was Romanian Daniela Silivaș in 1988.

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GYM WORLDS: Full women’s finals qualifiers

Simone Biles, with kidney stone, dominates gymnastics worlds qualifying

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Simone Biles was in the emergency room past 1 a.m. on Saturday in Qatar. Didn’t look like it in world championships qualifying 17 hours later.

The four-time Rio Olympic champion endured a large kidney stone she named the “Doha Pearl,” coming back with the top all-around qualifying score thus far and all but guaranteeing a place in all four apparatus finals. The last gymnast to run the table like that in qualifying? Biles in 2013.

“I heard roller coasters may help kidney stones,” Biles said, according to the International Gymnastics Federation, “and I am basically my own little roller coaster out there.”

She totaled 60.965 points, a whopping 4.5 points clear of second-place Morgan Hurd with half the gymnasts to go in qualifying.

She has the highest score on balance beam, floor exercise and vault and the second-highest on uneven bars. She also got a vault named after her after becoming the first woman to perform it in a major international meet (video here).

Biles said she felt stomach pain on her right side for two days before getting it checked out. She thought it was her appendix before tests showed the stone that was too large to pass.

“Even when I’m walking and doing some stretches, I’m in a bit of pain,” she said. “The adrenaline definitely helped.”

GYM WORLDS: Results | TV/Stream Schedule

Biles, Hurd and Riley McCusker had an internal competition Saturday for two available spots in the all-around. Hurd won last year’s world all-around title in Biles’ break from gymnastics.

McCusker all but took herself out of the running on the first two rotations, bending her knees on her bars landing with a big step forward and falling off the beam.

Biles hasn’t lost an all-around in more than five years. With a gold Thursday, she will break a tie with Russian Svetlana Khorkina for the most world all-around titles for a woman.

The incomparable Biles can break more records in apparatus finals Friday and Saturday. She is currently two gold medals shy of Vitaly Scherbo‘s career record of 12 at worlds. She can also fill the biggest hole on her résumé with a first uneven bars medal.

Women’s qualifying ends Sunday, highlighted by China and Russia.

Biles and the Americans next compete in Tuesday’s team final, where they are massive favorites for a sixth straight Olympic or world title.

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MORE: Sam Mikulak has best U.S. results in qualifying in 39 years