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Biles withdraws from gymnastics final to protect team, self

Biles withdraws from gymnastics final to protect team, self

TOKYO — Simone Biles arrived in Tokyo as the star of the U.S. Olympic movement and perhaps the Games themselves. She convinced herself she was prepared for the pressure. That she was ready to carry the burden of outsized expectations.Only, as the women’s gymnastics team final approached on Tuesday night, something felt off. And the athlete widely considered the Greatest of All Time in her sport knew it.So rather than push through the doubts that crept into her head as she’s done so many times in the past, Biles decided enough was enough. She was done. For now.The American star withdrew from the competition following one rotation, opening the door for the team of Russian athletes to win gold for the first time in nearly three decades.Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallum guided the U.S. to silver while Biles cheered from the sideline in a white sweatsuit, at peace with a decision that revealed a shift not only in Biles but perhaps the sport she’s redefined.“We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we’re human, too,” Biles said. “So, we have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”The Americans — fueled by an uneven bars routine by Lee that not even Biles could match — drew within eight-tenths of a point through three rotations. ROC, however, never wavered on floor. And they erupted when 21-year-old Angelina Melnikova’s score assured them of the top spot on the podium for the first time since the Unified Team won in Barcelona in 1992.The victory came a day after ROC men’s team edged Japan for the top spot in the men’s final. Great Britain edged Italy for bronze.“The impossible is possible now,” Melnikova said.Perhaps in more ways than one.In the five years since Biles and the U.S. put on a dazzling display on their way to gold in Rio de Janeiro, gymnastics has undergone a reckoning. The tectonic plates in a sport where obedience, discipline and silence were long considered as important as talent and artistry are moving.Biles has become an outspoken advocate for athlete’s rights and the importance of proper mental health. There was a time, there were many times actually, where she felt she wasn’t right and just powered through because that’s what people expected of her.Not anymore. And the stand she took could resonate far beyond the color of any medal she may win in Tokyo.Biles is the latest in a series of high-profile athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka, who have used their platforms to discuss their mental heath struggles. A subject that was once taboo has become far more accepted and embraced.U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland applauded Biles for prioritizing her “mental wellness over all else” and offered the organization’s full support. USA Gymnastics women’s program vice-president called Biles’ act “incredibly selfless.”Biles posted on social media Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders after an uncharacteristically sloppy showing during qualifying left the Americans looking up at the ROC on the scoreboard.The tension affected her practice. It affected her confidence. And when she stepped onto the vault runway, it finally found its way to her performance, too.She was scheduled to do an “Amanar” vault that requires a roundoff back handspring onto the table followed by 2 1/2 twists. Biles instead did just 1 1/2 twists with a big leap forward after landing. She sat down and talked to U.S. team doctor Marcia Faustin, then headed to the back while the rest of the Americans moved on to uneven bars without her.When Biles returned several minutes later, she hugged her teammates and took off her bar grips. And just like that, her night was over.”To see her kind of go out like that is very sad because this Olympic Games, I feel like, is kind of hers,” Lee said.Biles is scheduled to defend her Olympic title in the all-around final on Thursday. She also qualified for all four event finals later in the Games. She said she will regroup on Wednesday before deciding whether to continue.Biles’ abrupt absence forced the Americans to scramble a bit. The finals are a three-up/three-count format, meaning each country enters three of their four athletes on an apparatus, with all three scores counting.Chiles stepped in to take Biles’ place on uneven bars and balance beam. The 20-year-old who made the team with her steady consistency pulled off a solid bars routine and drilled her balance beam set two days after falling twice on the event.Thanks in part to a little help from ROC — which counted a pair of falls on beam — the U.S. drew within striking distance heading to floor, the final rotation.Without Biles and her otherworldly tumbling, the U.S. needed to be near perfect to close the gap. It didn’t happen. Chiles stumbled to the mat at the end of her second pass, and any chance the U.S. had of chasing down ROC went right along with it.Not that Chiles or the rest of the Americans particularly cared. The gold might be gone, but something more significant may have happened instead. It’s a tradeoff they can live with.“This medal is definitely for (Biles),” said Chiles. “If it wasn’t if it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be here where we are right now. We wouldn’t be a silver medalist because of who she is as a person.”Chiles then turned to her good friend. Biles helped convince her to move to Houston to train alongside her two years ago, a decision that turned Chiles into an Olympian. In an empty arena in the middle of Japan with the world watching, Chiles did for Biles what Biles has done for so many for so long. She had her back.“Kudos to you girl,” Chiles said. “This is all for you.”—————More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

US men seek momentum after promising Olympic performance

US men seek momentum after promising Olympic performance

The U.S. men’s Olympic gymnastics team hopes it can build off a fifth-place performance in the OlympicsBy WILL GRAVES AP Sports WriterJuly 26, 2021, 4:34 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTOKYO — Sam Mikulak walked off the floor, turned his palms up and laughed.Well, sorta.The three-time Olympian’s last performance in a gymnastics team event didn’t exactly go as planned.Looking to preserve a fourth-place finish for the U.S. during Monday night’s finals, the 28-year-old’s feet came out from under him. Any chance of holding off Great Britain vanished in the process.Oh well. That’s gymnastics. Nobody knows that better than Mikulak, who has spent nearly a decade as the standard-bearer for a men’s program in flux. The Americans arrived at Ariake Gymnastics Center knowing they would need major mistakes by either the Chinese, the Japanese or the Russians to have a shot at the medal stand.They didn’t happen. Yet for the first time since earning bronze at the 2014 world championships, the U.S. appears to be gaining momentum. The three Olympic rookies — Shane Wiskus, Yul Moldauer and Brody Malone — were solid and occasionally spectacular while competing alongside eventual Olympic champion Russia.No blow-ups on pommel horse. No falls on high bar. No major errors of any real kind other than Mikulak’s ill-timed slip. The group that broke into an impromptu version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” rarely wobbled and never wavered.It’s a start.“We really have a strong future for Team USA,” said Mikulak, who is retiring after the Games. “I know these guys are going to go (up their difficulty) and then all of a sudden coming to Paris (in 2024), I know these guys are going to be cranking it out trying to get up on that medal podium. So I’m excited for what they’re all going to do with this experience to grow from.”The biggest obstacle for the U.S. at the moment isn’t talent, it’s math. The difficulty of their routines can’t quite match up with the kind put together by Russia, Japan and China. The Americans are trailing before they even step onto the competition floor, something that needs to change over the next three years if they want to close the gap on the sport’s three superpowers. And they know it.“Playing it safe is not worth it in the long run,” Wiskus said. “I’ve been guilty of this many times, and taking skills out just for a clean hit routine. But when it comes to advancing USA gymnastics and getting us on the medal podium, it’s not going to help us. We really need to think about our priorities and focus on energy on getting our difficulties up and making that the priority.”There’s time. Malone is 21. Wiskus is 22. Moldauer is 24. They hardly looked overwhelmed by the sport’s biggest stage. Starting on pommel horse — long a place where U.S. medal hopes have gone to die — they cranked out hit set after hit set. It wasn’t enough to track down the top three, but the Americans did spend most of the night bumping their head up against the ceiling.“I think now that we’re going to be able to come back, take our experiences from these Games and carry them to the next one,” Wiskus said. “I think that it’s only going to make us stronger and make us more prepared for the next time around.”There won’t be a next time, however, for Mikulak. The six-time national champion is ready to get on with the rest of his life. He’s engaged to be married and in the process of moving to North Carolina.He has two days of competition left in his life. He’ll join Malone in the all-around on Wednesday and chalk up in the parallel bars in the event finals later in the games. Then it’s time to move on. He’s OK with it. Malone’s victories at both nationals and Olympic trials signaled a changing of the guard.Mikulak has long made peace with it. If anything, it helped take a bit of the pressure off. For the first time in three Olympics, he actually enjoyed it. There are worse ways to wind down a career. Way worse.“Coming out here, being able to be free and feel like myself, to be able to be vulnerable with these guys, I feel like I’m in such a better headspace,” Mikulak said. “These guys have helped me get there.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Russia edges Japan, China for gold in men's gymnastics

Russia edges Japan, China for gold in men's gymnastics

TOKYO — Nikita Nagornyy huddled with the rest of the Russian men’s gymnastics team, stared at the scoreboard and waited.And waited.And waited.What in reality was only a few moments seemed like forever to the group representing the Russian Olympic Committee.In a way it was.For a quarter-century, the Russians had ceded the top of the medal stand at the Olympics to rivals. Japan. China. The United States.No more.When the score for Nagornyy’s floor routine finally flashed — 14.600, just enough to slide past Japan and into first — the reigning world champion erupted in joy, tears and gleeful shouts of his country’s name.“Everyone here deserves this medal,” Nagornyy said. “I knew we’d win all along and we just confirmed it.”Just barely.Russia’s team total of 262.500 was just ahead of Japan’s 262.397 and China’s 261.8934. The Russians took the lead after the third rotation, though their grasp on gold appeared tenuous when Abliazin stepped out of bounds on floor exercise. Dalaloyan, competing on a heavily taped left Achilles tendon just three months removed from surgery, bounded out of bounds too.Rising Japanese star Daiki Hashimoto drilled a 15.1 on high bar to slip by China into first. Russia’s hopes of gold fell to Nagornyy, who was born just five months before the 1996 Olympic team triumphed in Atlanta. An early wobble forced him to scrub his initial routine. He improvised brilliantly, avenging a loss to Japan in Brazil five years ago.“At the Olympics in Rio, we were weaker than the Japanese,” said Abliazin, who was on the 2016 team alongside Nagornyy and Belyavskiy. “Now we are already stronger. We proved it at the world championships (in 2019) and proved it again.”The fact the Russian flag and the country’s national anthem weren’t part of the ceremony — part of the International Olympic Committee’s penalty for doping problems in the country — hardly mattered. It didn’t change the way the gold felt hanging around their necks. Or the validation the performance provided for a team that is now the best in the world.“To beat Japan at their home is a great result,” Abliazin said. “I think we can do even more.”They just might if they can get healthy. Two days after sobbing at the end of qualifying, Dalaloyan pushed aside the ache in his leg and was perhaps even better. He stuck the dismount on his vault, his feet seemingly suction-cupped to the mat.Even though the momentum from a tumbling pass during his floor routine carried him onto the blue carpet, he recovered to post a 14.066, vital during a meet where every hundredth of a point counted.“The emotions covered all the pain I felt,” Dalaloyan said. “So I feel fantastic. The emotions of the victory and the medal are great. We started calmly, but there were nerves at the end. It became very passionate.”The passion could be felt in the roar of the Japanese after the 19-year-old Hashimoto — Japan’s heir apparent to two-time Olympic champion Kohei Uchimura — delivered a nervy high bar set. Their cheers echoed throughout the mostly empty Ariake Gymnastics Centre, and for a few minutes, it appeared it might be enough to overcome both the Chinese and the Russians.Hashimoto didn’t let himself go quite that far.“I knew I wasn’t performing by myself,” he said. “I wanted to do it for everyone else. I’m exhilarated. I was very happy when I was done. I didn’t even consider the color of the medal. I just knew I had delivered.”Silver, but not quite gold. While admitting a tinge of disappointment in the final result, Hashimoto was quick to point out the Japanese didn’t lose so much as the Russians won. Other opportunities, however, likely await for a team whose members are all 25 or younger.“Come Paris, we are set on going for gold,” Tanigawa said.It figures to be tight all the way through. Japan captured gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. The Chinese edged Russia for a world title in 2018, then flipped positions a year later. The margins have been razor thin all the way. That’s not likely to change.Great Britain came in fourth. The U.S. appeared poised to come in fourth before a messy floor exercise in the final rotation, the only real mistake in an otherwise solid meet for the Americans in three-time Olympian Sam Mikulak’s final meet before retiring.“Throughout this whole experience these guys were rock solid,” Mikulak said of teammates Shane Wiskus, Yul Moldauer and Brody Malone. “Just really cool to see these first-timers go out and shine like that. We really have a strong future for Team USA.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

EXPLAINER: How the Russians caught the U.S. in gymnastics

EXPLAINER: How the Russians caught the U.S. in gymnastics

TOKYO — Tom Forster’s words were jarring. Not because they were controversial or insincere, but because they simply hadn’t been uttered by someone in charge of the USA Gymnastics women’s program for a long, long time.“I want to say congratulations to Russia for the amazing competition they did today, for the transformation they’ve made since 2019,” Forster said after the team representing the Russian Olympic Committee finished ahead of the Americans during Olympic qualifying on Sunday.The strides made by the U.S’s longtime rival were lost amid the immediate shock of having the U.S. team led by reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles find itself looking up at the scoreboard to someone above them for the first time since the 2010 world championships.Three of the four Americans who went to work at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre on Sunday — Biles, Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallum — were part of the squad that rolled to victory in Stuttgart in October 2019.There, the U.S. topped qualifying and the finals by more than five points, a massive margin in a sport where mere tenths can often be the difference between the gold and going home empty-handed. The Russians finished a distant second, just like every team trying to catch the Americans over the last decade.In Japan, the gap has closed considerably. Maybe completely. Competing in the subdivision ahead of the U.S., Angelina Melnikova and her teammates put on a dazzling display of artistry and execution. Their 171.629 total was their highest in a major team competition since the Code of Points was updated in 2017.It’s not that the Americans were bad. They weren’t. They just weren’t great. The Russians were, which should offer Tuesday night’s team final something it has lacked for a decade: actual drama.So how did we get here, and how does it work? Let’s take a look.WHAT’S WITH THIS SCORING SYSTEM?The days of Nadia Comaneci and the perfect 10 are long gone. The International Gymnastics Federation switched to a new system following a judging controversy at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.Starting in 2006, scores were broken down into two parts. The difficulty (D) score is based on what a gymnast does during their routine. The harder the elements the athlete successfully strings together, the higher the total.In theory, the D-score can be open-ended. Most elite routines carry a D-score between 5.4 and 6.0. Exceptional routines — like what Biles does on floor or what Lee does on uneven bars — score 6.5 or higher.The second score is the execution (E) score. It is based on a 10.0 scale, but the perfectly executed routine does not exist. Not even Biles has managed to hit that plateau during her rise from prodigy to the unquestioned greatest gymnast of all-time.Any execution score over 8.00 is good. Anything over 8.5 — particularly on bars, beam and floor, where deductions quickly pile up — is extraordinary.On Sunday, Biles received a 6.7 D score for a floor routine that includes two elements named after her. Judges dinged her for sloppy — again, by her standards — performance, giving her a 7.733, for a 14.133 total, second-best of the day behind Italy’s Vanessa Ferrari.Upshot: a 14.0 is good. A 14.5 is really good. Anything over 15.000 and you’re likely to head home with some serious hardware in your carry-on.WHY HAVE THE AMERICANS BEEN DOMINANT FOR SO LONG?The scoring system forces coaches and athletes to do their own version of risk vs. reward. Do you pack routines with really hard elements at the risk of execution? Or do you opt for an easier set you could potentially do more cleanly?For years, the Americans — Biles in particular — haven’t had to choose. Not only have they done the hardest gymnastics out there, they’ve done them better than anyone else.That’s still the case in Tokyo. The combined difficulty scores the Americans used on all four events during qualifying was 71.9. The ROC’s total was 69.7.So why did ROC finish ahead of the U.S.? Execution. Where the Americans were messy, the Russians were precise. It made all the difference.HOW MUCH BETTER HAVE THE RUSSIANS GOTTEN?The Russians were so good Sunday that reigning European champion Viktoria Listunova will watch the all-around finals from the stands after teammates Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova finished ahead of her in qualifying.For the Americans, Biles put up the top score as usual and will compete in all five finals. But she was not at her unparalleled best. The 24-year-old bounded well off the mat at the end of a tumbling pass on floor and her block on her Cheng vault was so crooked it’s amazing she managed to land anywhere inside the arena.Lee, McCallum and Chiles all had significant form breaks at some point. McCallum stepped out on floor. Chiles fell off the beam. Lee’s execution on her double-twisting Yurchenko vault lacked the crispness of the ones done by Chiles and McCallum.Yet despite those miscues, the U.S. total of 170.562 would still have been good enough to finish atop the table in both qualifying and the team finals at the 2018 and 2019 world championships.HOW DO THINGS CHANGE FOR THE FINALS?During qualifying, each member of the four-person team competes on each event, with teams being able to drop their lowest score. That will change during Tuesday’s finals, when the competition moves to three-up/three-count.It’s a format the Americans have thrived in for more than a decade. The higher the pressure, the better they’ve done.That hasn’t been the case for the Russians. Falls on beam in the team final at 2019 world championships cost them. The Americans beat them by 2.5 points on the mentally taxing event where every wobble costs valuable tenths and a fall is basically a white flag.SO WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?If the Americans can simply match the execution scores of the Russians, they should be fine. Their built-in advantage on difficulty gives them a head start before they even salute the judges.Biles tends to respond to the occasional “off” day by summoning her singular greatness. Chiles has been so consistent in 2021 that she was bound to have a misstep at some point. Maybe qualifying was the sport’s way of evening the score.———More AP Olympic coverage: https://www.apnews.com/OlympicGames and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Shell's journey from undrafted long shot ends with hall call

Shell's journey from undrafted long shot ends with hall call

Donnie Shell knew he had a little time to make an impression. The life span of an undrafted free agent rookie is short. Really short. Especially for undrafted free agent rookies from a Historically Black College and University like South Carolina State, where the undersized Shell spent years playing out of position at outside linebacker.“I was 190 pounds soaking wet,” Shell said with a laugh.Still, Pittsburgh Steelers scout Bill Nunn saw enough in the way Shell delivered hits — punishing opponents with little regard for his own well-being — to convince his bosses that Shell deserved an invitation to training camp in the summer of 1974.A chance is all Shell was guaranteed. So he made a promise to himself to arrive at Saint Vincent College in better shape than anyone else on the roster. Then fate intervened. The NFL Players Association went on strike for six weeks, giving rookies like Shell extra reps during the early days of camp.It was all Shell needed to launch a career that nearly 50 years later landed him in the Hall of Fame. The hard-hitting cornerback won four Super Bowls during his 14 years in the NFL and next month will become the fifth — and most unlikely — member of the “Steel Curtain” defense to be enshrined in Canton.The other four — lineman Joe Greene, linebackers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert and back Mel Blount — all arrived in Pittsburgh with a pedigree. Not Shell, who views his winding path to football immortality as a testament to what can happen when innate ability and a relentless belief in yourself collide.“It just shows that no matter where you start or where you come in, what round you are in or where you played, backup or whatever, that you can be successful if you have the right attitude,” Shell said. “I knew I was going to separate myself through my conditioning and my physical play and also being a student of the game. A great example for young people to take, that when everybody counts you out, you’re not really out.”It didn’t take long for Shell to impress defensive assistant George Perles.“I kind of came in with my jaw set,” Shell said. “I knew by the time we put the pads on that I was going to have a chance to show them what I could do. I remember coach Perles saying, ‘Keep bringing Shell. Keep bringing Shell.’ I was coming up and hitting them.”So Shell did, even if not everyone was convinced. He remembers doing an interview during that first camp in which the reporter told him he was a “long shot.”“That taught me one thing: You’ve got to go against the grain of what’s true,” Shell said. “(The reporter) stated a fact. He was right. There aren’t a lot of undrafted guys that make it. But sometimes you’ve got to go against the grain. Don’t give up on your dreams. Because God created everybody and gave them different talents and abilities and don’t let those obstacles discourage you.”Shell arrived in Pittsburgh when the Steelers were in the final steps of the building process coach Chuck Noll began when the team selected Greene with the fourth overall pick in 1969. Running back Franco Harris told Shell the team was heading to the Super Bowl in the ’74 season.“I said, ‘Yeah, all right,’” Shell said laughing. “I said, ‘Y’all were pretty good. But the ship sinking on one end, the rookies are going to get you over the hump.’”Shell might have been joking at the time, but his prescient words soon played out in reality. Shell and fellow rookies Lambert, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Mike Webster ushered in an unprecedented run of success. Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls over the next six years, with all five of them playing an integral role.While Lambert and Webster reached the Hall of Fame shortly after retiring, with Swann and Stallworth getting there by the early 2000s, Shell didn’t receive the call until being selected as part of the hall’s centennial class in 2020.Yet he didn’t let years of disappointment define him. It’s just another part of his journey.“I learned a lot by waiting,” said Shell, who will turn 69 shortly after his enshrinement. “You grow in your faith. You grow in your patience. And you grow in your walk with the Lord. All those years, you had to continue to trust him. And you know, then you get to the place where you’re just content. If it happens, if it doesn’t, I’m still OK. That was my attitude about it.”It’s a mindset that carried Shell from Whitmire, South Carolina (population 1,509) to a place alongside the greatest players in NFL history after 14 seasons, 201 games, 51 interceptions, five Pro Bowls and four Super Bowl rings.Shell’s evolution from undrafted nobody to mainstay for a dynasty is a testament to both his personal work ethic and the brilliance of the late Nunn, who scoured HBCUs for talent and himself will reach Canton as a contributor next month alongside one of the treasures he found along the way.“Chuck Noll had that saying, ‘Whatever it takes’ and Donnie was kind of the definition of that,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said. “He would go on the field and do whatever was necessary. … He was willing to make the kind of sacrifices to make the difference in the game.”———More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP—NFL

Japan surges to gymnastics lead; Reigning champ Uchimura out

Japan surges to gymnastics lead; Reigning champ Uchimura out

TOKYO — Kohei Uchimura’s gymnastics career is over. The Japanese star can take solace knowing that the sport the two-time Olympic champion led to glory appears to be in good hands in his home country.Daiki Hashimoto topped Olympic qualifying through two subdivisions on Saturday, putting on a show inside the largely empty Ariake Gymnastics Centre to help Japan sprint to the top of the leaderboard.Hashimoto’s all-around total of 88.531 pushed Japan past rivals China and ROC, as the Russian team is known, to the top spot in qualifying. The Japanese will bid Monday night for an Olympic title to back up the one they captured in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.“Passing the qualification round (in first), you know, really (puts pressure on other teams),” Hashimoto said.The party, however, will go on without Uchimura. Competing as an individual on high bar — his signature event — the 32-year-old widely considered to be the greatest men’s gymnast of all time fell midway through his routine and will not advance to event finals later in the Games.With fans banned, the small crowd of onlookers — most of them coaches and administrators from various countries — gasped as Uchimura fell to the mat. He pulled himself up and completed his routine, sticking his dismount. His score of 13.866 was well outside the top eight cutoff for event finals.The program Uchimura led to Olympic glory, however, seems to be back in form after ceding the spotlight to China and Russia in recent years. Japan’s team total of 262.251 was just ahead of China’s 262.061 and ROC’s 261.945. The top eight teams in qualifying move on to Monday night’s team final.The biggest surprise of the early session came from ROC gymnast Artur Dalaloyan. Competing on a surgically repaired Achilles tendon in his left leg, Dalaloyan earned an unlikely spot in the all-around final with a score of 85.597.It didn’t come easy. The 25-year-old dissolved into tears following his floor exercise routine, overcome by what he’s endured since tearing the Achilles during the European Championships in April.“I couldn’t control my emotions,” Dalaloyen said through an interpreter. “There’s something that broke inside me.”Dalaloyan’s ranking as the second ROC gymnast behind reigning world champion Nikita Nagornyy means he’ll compete in the all-around final if his Achilles holds up.Dalaloyan didn’t decide to attempt to qualify for the all-around until meeting with his coaches on Friday.“I felt strength and power to compete and decided to compete,” he said. “I keep working for 24 hours a day. For me, the Olympic Games is a really high priority. For most sportsmen and people who do (gymnastics), they don’t have the chance to be here. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”Even if the injury prevented him from putting on the show he wanted. His two lowest scores of the day came on his final two events: pommel horse and floor.“On one side of me, one side was full of joy and confidence,” he said. “I was kind of proud I could make it, I could come to this point and do all the exercises all the way I really wanted to. The other part of me felt disappointment in a sense because I understand I could not do all the exercises perfectly. There was something I probably could have improved. So having these mixed feelings would better describe my emotions.”Dalaloyan will have a day to rehab before team finals on Monday when the Russian gymnasts will attempt to win their first Olympic title since 2000.ROC, China and Japan appear to continue their three-way tug-of-war for men’s supremacy. Japan triumphed in Rio in 2016. China edged the Russians at the 2018 world championships, with Russia returning the favor a year later.Nagornyy grabbed the early lead in all-around qualifying, putting together a steady 87.897, just ahead of China’s Xiao Ruoteng and Sun Wei before getting passed by Hashimoto during the second subdivision.”We respect our rivals very much,” Nagornyy said of the rivalry with China. “We made our best effort. We have a lot to do. There are still tasks ahead.”Five-time Olympian Marian Dragulescu’s attempt to reach the vault finals at age 40 ended when he shorted his landing on his first vault. The three-time Olympic medalist finished his international career by completing the “Dragulescu vault” he invented with only a small hop on the landing.Epke Zonderland of the Netherlands, the 2012 high bar champion, won’t reach the final on his signature event after an uncharacteristically sloppy series of connections put him in 10th place after the first subdivision. The 35-year-old arrived in Tokyo dealing with a shoulder injury.Great Britain is fourth through two subdivisions. followed by Switzerland, Ukraine, Brazil and Spain.The U.S., searching for its first podium finish since 2008 in Beijing, is set to go later Saturday.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Long live the King; Uchimura's Olympic career ends in grace

Long live the King; Uchimura's Olympic career ends in grace

Japanese gymnastics superstar Kohei Uchimura’s bid for one last shot of Olympic glory is overBy WILL GRAVES AP Sports WriterJuly 24, 2021, 9:53 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTOKYO — Kohei Uchimura spent a decade redefining the standard of excellence in men’s gymnastics. The two-time Olympic champion’s combination of grace and precision — coupled with a soft-spoken humility that did its best to downplay his otherworldly talent — made him a superstar in Japan and widely revered everywhere else.The man they call “King Kohei” didn’t need to stick around for the Tokyo Olympics. He did anyway, throwing himself back into the gym as he entered his early 30s in a quest for one more flash of brilliance in front of the country where he has long been a household name.Still, things never quite felt right. The coronavirus pandemic pushed the games back a year. Injuries accrued from a quarter-century of pushing his body to the limit kept cropping up. Yet he somehow managed to will himself into an individual spot on the Japanese Olympic team, fending off challenges from younger athletes who grew up idolizing him.The glorious sendoff, however, never materialized. The stands inside the Ariake Gymnastics Center were largely empty when Uchimura saluted the judges before his high-bar set during Olympic qualifying on Saturday. For 30 seconds he turned his signature event into a time machine, executing a series of daring releases with the casual confidence that defined his prime.In a flash, it changed. It always does in gymnastics. First his right hand came off the bar. Then his left. Suddenly, he was on the mat. The small gathering of coaches, administrators and dignitaries who stopped to watch let out a small gasp. Slowly, Uchimura stood up, gathered himself and hopped back up for potentially one last ride.He drilled his dismount — of course he did — then made a brief wave. His score of 13.866 wasn’t anywhere close to the top eight, the cutoff to reach the event finals later in the Games.While the Japanese team moved on from high bar to floor exercise, Uchimura quietly packed up his team bag, pulled on a jacket and disappeared.“In the last three Olympic Games, I could perform what I could have, what I could practice,” Uchimura said through a translator. “But not this competition.”Whether it’s his last remains to be seen. The world championships are in Japan in October. That’s only three months away. It’s possible he sticks around. He said he will have to think about it.Uchimura made it a point, however, to stress he wasn’t disappointed. He wasn’t sure he could even earn an Olympic spot, not with a loaded group of Japanese gymnasts who entered the sport around the time he won the first of his six world all-around titles in London in 2009.Daiki Hashimoto, just 19, raced to the top of the leaderboard during qualifying with a performance that could best be described as Uchimura-lite. The four-man Japanese team, all first-time Olympians, hardly looked bothered by the stakes or the pressure of delivering at home.In short, they looked just like Uchimura did for years on end. Composed. Charismatic. Precise. Hashimoto believes the group that will go for gold during the team finals on Monday is better than the one Uchimura guided to the top of the podium in Rio de Janeiro five years ago.Uchimura doesn’t necessarily disagree. He watched Japan’s final three rotations and drank in the moment as the program he stewarded to glory moved on without him.“I found them sorting out problems by themselves,” Uchimura said. “So I thought, I’m not needed at that level. All right.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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