rachelthompsnbc

Getty Images

Weekend Gymnastics Roundup: Carey and McCusker on World Cup podium

Leave a comment

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.

Olympic champion Florent Manaudou returns to the pool with sights set on Tokyo

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Olympic gold medalist Florent Manaudou of France is back to competitive swimming after more than two years away.

The 28-year-old, who won gold in the 50m free at the London 2012 Games and two silver medals in Rio before taking a hiatus, told L’Equipe he plans to train for the Tokyo 2020 Games with the International Swimming League (ISL) Energy Standard squad.

“I’ve been thinking for months. I want to resume the competition,” he told L’Equipe. “For some time, I miss it more and more…talking with my family, my former coaches, I set myself a challenge: to jump [back] in the competition.”

One of the first people he consulted was his sister, Laure, who won gold in the 400m free at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Florent, then 13, watched from the stands in Greece, but they made a pact to compete together at the Olympics, fulfilling that goal in London.

Entering the Rio Games as the reigning Olympic and world champion in the 50m free, Manaudou was the favorite in an often unpredictable event. He came up just .01 seconds short of a second straight Olympic title, finishing behind American Anthony Ervin. After the Games, Manaudou told French newspaper La Provence that his ultimate goal was to compete at the Olympics in two different sports, and shifted his attention to handball (his father, Jean-Luc, was a handball player and coach). Manaudou also worked as a commentator for French TV during the 2017 World Championships and 2018 European Championships.

But still, the pool was calling. And Manaudou sensed he had untapped potential.

“I don’t even know what I can do,” he said, according to L’Equipe. 

He’ll have a team of accomplished training mates with the Energy Standard team: Olympic gold medalists Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden and South Africa’s Chad le Clos are both team captains.

Two-time Olympic medalist Ayumu Hirano to compete in skateboarding this month

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After winning his second straight Olympic silver medal in PyeongChang, Japanese snowboarding star Ayumu Hirano had barely undone his bindings when he was asked about his plans for Tokyo.

“If I’m going to start aiming for [Tokyo 2020], I don’t have much time. I’ll need to train hard,” Hirano said at a post-event press conference, according to the Japan Times. “I need to organize my thoughts. It’s just a possibility at this point.”

Hirano, 20, plans to compete in skateboarding at the Japan Open on March 16, according to Reuters, and has said he’s aiming for a spot on the Japanese team when skateboarding makes its Olympic debut in 2020.

Known for his incredible amplitude and smooth board control on the halfpipe, Hirano’s ties to skateboarding link back to childhood: his father, Hidenori, owns a skate park in Hirano’s hometown of Murakami, located on the west coast of Japan. He could be one of the host nation’s most prominent stars in Tokyo if he makes the Olympic team.

He could also could face a familiar foe: Shaun White, who topped Hirano for gold in PyeongChang, has said he’s pondering a run at his first summer Olympics. White, 32, has won five X Games medals in skateboarding, but all of those were in vert, a non-Olympic discipline.

White said in February he was “cruising into skating,” in an interview with Olympic.org, while trying to plot out what he’ll need to do to qualify for Tokyo. “I’m best preparing for any outcome,” he said, and enjoying some time away from the snow. “I’m skating on Venice Beach, the sun is going down and I’ve stopped to get a taco,” she said. “I’m kicking it with my friends, instead of being in Colorado. It’s been great and I’m having fun. It’s a different type of skating [in Tokyo] to what I did previously, which was vert skating, the big ramps. Now I’m doing bowl skating which is rad, it’s so much fun.”