Ri Se Gwang

Sam Mikulak earns first individual world championships medal

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Sam Mikulak had to wait until the very last routine of the world championships, but it had to be worth it. He’s finally an individual medalist.

The two-time Olympian and five-time U.S. all-around champion earned bronze on high bar in Doha, breaking through after four previous fourth-place finishes in Olympic or world finals. Including two this week and one earlier Saturday on parallel bars.

Mikulak will no longer be known as arguably the best gymnast in U.S. history without individual hardware.

“It’s a big weight off my chest,” he said. “It’s been such a emotional roller-coaster throughout this entire meet. … I can finally rest easy, go home and hang out with [bull terrier] Marshall and [girlfriend] Mia.”

Flying Dutchman Epke Zonderland earned gold with 15.1 for his baffling release moves, adding to his Olympic and world titles from 2012, 2013 and 2014. Japan’s Kohei Uchimura took silver with 14.8, his 21st career world medal. Mikulak snagged bronze with 14.533, just .033 ahead of 2017 World champ Tin Srbic of Croatia.

No man had a better meet than Russian Artur Dalaloyan, who became the first man to earn five medals at a worlds since Vitaly Scherbo in 1991.

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It had been a difficult week for Mikulak. The 26-year-old took perhaps the hardest defeat of his career on Wednesday, when he erred on high bar on the last rotation of the all-around final. He entered that routine in third place and would have earned at least bronze with a hit.

After, the normally California cool Mikulak said he was “pissed” and that he would either “go home dying, or I’m going to get a medal.”

He had four more chances in apparatus finals Friday and Saturday but finished seventh on floor exercise and fourth on pommel horse and parallel bars. However, high bar is Mikulak’s best event, despite those mistakes in the all-around.

“Today was a lot of redemption from all-around finals, being able to prove that I can go out, rock a set under this kind of pressure,” he said. “All-around finals, I played a little bit of the conservative route, played it too safe. You can never play it safe in this sport. That’s how you get in trouble. Sometimes you’ve got to let everything go.”

Mikulak saved the U.S. men from going medal-less at an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2009, though the team finished fourth and Yul Moldauer was fourth on floor. Mikulak is the only active team member with Olympic experience.

“I feel like a veteran, finally, in this sport,” he said. “People have been saying I’m a veteran, but I think this is the first time I’ve proven I’m one of those.”

Also Saturday, North Korean Olympic champion Ri Se Gwang won vault for the third time at worlds.

Chinese Zou Jingyuan earned his second straight world title on parallel bars with a 16.433-point routine, topping Olympic champion Oleg Verniaiev‘s 15.591.

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MORE: Why Simone Biles can win with two falls

Gymnastics: North Korea’s Ri takes gold; Bronze awarded via tiebreak

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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North Korea’s Se Gwang Ri posted a 15.691 on the vault to take gold at the Rio Olympics on Monday.

The 31-year-old Ri boasts golds from the 2014 and 2015 World Championships as well.

Going last after a bronze on the rings, Russia’s Denis Abliazin surged into silver with a 15.516.

Japan’s Kenzo Shirai and Romania’s Marian Dragulesco posted twin 15.449 scores, with Shirai taking the bronze via tiebreak.

It’s North Korea’s second gold of the Games.

Simone Biles sweeps balance beam, floor exercise, breaks Worlds record

Simone Biles
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Simone Biles tied and broke the record for women’s World Gymnastics Championships gold medals in about 90 minutes on Sunday.

Biles, already with team and all-around titles in Glasgow, Scotland, swept the balance beam and floor exercise on the final day of competition as the U.S. finished with 10 medals and five golds, most among all nations. Her best friend on the team, Maggie Nichols, was the floor bronze medalist.

“We did a lot of good things out here, more good than bad, but we still have some areas to clean up,” Biles said in a USA Gymnastics interview.

Biles won those four titles at Worlds for a second straight year, giving her 10 career Worlds gold medals among 14 overall, both U.S. records.

That broke the all-nations women’s golds record of nine previously shared by the Soviet Union’s Larisa Latynina, Romania’s Gina Gogean and Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina.

The overall record is held by Belarus’ Vitaly Scherbo, who captured 23 medals and 12 golds.

Biles, 18, is now set up to be predicted to win four gold medals at the Rio Olympics, which no gymnast has done since Scherbo took six at Barcelona 1992. The last woman to do so was Romania’s Ecaterina Szabo at Los Angeles 1984, an Olympics boycotted by the strong Soviet Union.

Biles became the first woman to win three straight solo World titles on floor exercise, scoring 15.8 points with unmatched difficulty, execution and height on her tumbling passes.

Her margin of victory (seven tenths) was the largest in the event at a Worlds or Olympics since the perfect-10 scoring system was thrown out in 2006.

“I wanted to end with a bang,” Biles said. My mom takes my medals from me and puts them in a safe, and I do not know the combination.”

The 4-foot-9 model of power and precision also became the first woman to win three straight Worlds medals on balance beam. Again, none of the other seven women in the final bettered her difficulty or execution.

Biles repeated as champion in the event with the second-largest winning margin (1.025) in any Olympic/Worlds individual event since the perfect-10 was axed.

She had one clear beam wobble, lifting one of her legs off the four-inch-wide apparatus to regain balance, stuck her landing and notched her highest beam score ever at Worlds, a 15.358. That earned her a pat on the head from U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi.

“The highlight of these championships is my beam,” said Biles, who rebounded after nearly falling off the beam in the all-around Thursday. “If I was told that I would be two-time (World) beam champion, I wouldn’t have believed it before.”

Also Saturday, Japanese icon Kohei Uchimura matched Biles with his 10th career Worlds gold, prevailing on high bar ahead of American Danell Leyva. Uchimura, 26, now owns 19 Worlds medals and earned three golds at one Worlds for the first time in his career.

“The kind of competition that Kohei puts up there is obviously unique, it’s legendary,” Leyva, who earned his fifth career Worlds medal, said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “There’s nothing I could do.”

Romania’s Marian Dragulescu nearly tied the record for most World titles on one apparatus in the vault final. The 34-year-old out of retirement earned silver, falling short of a fifth vault gold to North Korea’s Ri Se Gwang, who repeated as World champion.

After his vaults, Dragulescu celebrated his average score (15.4) by running while waving his arms like an airplane, wearing a shirt with a picture of himself and an advertisement for his official Facebook page and taking photos with a selfie stick.

American Donnell Whittenburg earned his first individual Worlds medal with a vault bronze.

China’s Hao You took parallel bars gold with a 16.215. Leyva, the 2011 World champion and 2014 silver medalist, finished sixth.

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