United States men's basketball coach Gregg Popovich insists his side's defeat to France in their first outing at Tokyo 2020 should not be considered a surprise result.

Team USA have won gold in the last three Games, but they saw a 25-game winning streak in the tournament come to an end on Sunday against an inspired France side.

Les Blues, who also beat a much-fancied USA in the World Cup quarter-finals in 2019, are ranked seventh in the FIBA rankings but proved too strong for the world's top team with an 83-76 win at the Saitama Super Arena.

Despite his side's long unbeaten run in the competition coming to an end, Popovich – taking charge at his first Games – was quick to put the loss into some perspective.

"People shouldn't be surprised that we lost to the French team or the Australian team or the Spanish team or the Lithuanian team," he told reporters. 

"It doesn't matter who it is – the gap in talent shrinks every year, as there are more and more great players all over the world. 

"And you need to give the French team credit for playing well. They were more consistent than we were at both ends of the court. It's as simple as that."

 

STARS ALIGN FOR HISTORY-MAKING ZOLOTIC

Sunday was a positive day on the whole for Team USA – especially compared to Saturday, when they failed to win a medal on the opening day of a Games for the first time since Munich 1972 – as they picked up four gold, two silver and four bronze.

That haul includes a maiden gold in the women's taekwondo thanks to teenager Anastasija Zolotic, who beat Tatiana Minina of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in the final of the -57kg weight category event. 

"My eight-year-old self was running around the schoolyard saying I was going to be Olympic champion but she could never have imagined what this moment is like," Zolotic said. 

"It's unbelievable. It really hasn't sunk in yet. I can't believe it. I'm in a bit of shock. I'm just trying to wrap my head around it. It feels wonderful. I came here confident and ready to take the gold. The stars were aligned."

Zolotic's win came on the back of two-time Olympic champion Jade Jones suffering a shock elimination to Refugee Olympic Team member Kimia Alizadeh in the last 16, denying the Team GB athlete a shot of winning a historic third gold.

 

BILES BOUNCES BACK, CHUSOVITINA WAVES GOODBYE

A lot of focus has been on Simone Biles heading into the Games, though she had a rare off day as the USA finished behind ROC in the women's gymnastics qualifying.

Biles, who won four golds and a bronze in Rio, was penalised on both floor and vault but still scored a respectable 14.166 to book a spot in the final.

While Biles still has time on her side, both in Tokyo and in the long term, the 2020 Games will be the last for Uzbekistan's Oksana Chusovitina, who bowed out on Sunday after a record-setting eighth appearance at the Olympics.

Chusovitina, at the age of 46, just missed out on qualifying for the vault event and was given a standing ovation by the small number of people inside the arena.

To put Chusovitina's remarkable run of appearances into perspective, she made her debut at the Games in 1992, some five years before Biles was born.

"It was really nice. I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time," she said. "I didn't look at the results, but I feel very proud and happy. I'm saying goodbye to sports. It's kind of mixed feelings.

"I'm alive, I'm happy, I'm here without any injuries, and I can stand on my own."

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

Japanese pair Uta and Hifumi Abe made Olympic history as they became the first siblings to win gold medals on the same day of a Games in an individual sport, both enjoying success in judo on day two in Tokyo.

Uta won the women’s 52kg competition, defeating France's Amandine Buchard. A closely contested bout went to a golden score, with Abe crucially claiming ippon to settle the final in her favour.

The two-time world champion cried tears of joy in the aftermath, admitting: "I don't know, maybe it may not have been appropriate but I couldn't hold myself back."

Older brother Hifumi made it a family double, overcoming Vazha Margvelashvili of Georgia to triumph in the men's 66kg final.

"This has turned out to be the greatest day ever," he said. "I don't think we, as brother and sister, could shine any brighter on this stage known as the Tokyo Olympics. I'm so happy."

 

Simone Biles mixed brilliance with an unfamiliar touch of the erratic as she launched into Tokyo 2020 action, just about keeping alive the prospect of beating her Rio haul of four gold medals.

The American gymnastics great headed the all-around individual standings, just ahead of the impressive Brazilian Rebeca Andrade, with USA team-mate Sunisa Lee in third.

She remains in the hunt in six events, but it was far from a dominant Biles at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, and the United States team as a whole had an unusually mediocre day. The Russian Olympic Committee gymnasts finished above them in the team standings for the first time since 2010 at a major event.

Russia's score of 171.629 suggested they can post a major challenge in the final to the usually dominant United States (170.562), although Biles and her team-mates will want to prove themselves once again.

Since 2011, the USA have won team gold at all five World Championships and both Olympic Games, in London and Rio.

Biles' landings were not near as sure-footed as they have so typically been, and in her floor exercise she misjudged a tumbling pass to such an extent she stepped back all the way off the raised floor.

 

Tom Forster, high performance co-ordinator for the USA, was taken aback by Biles' mistakes.

He said: "That was a surprise. She's been incredibly consistent and I'm sure she feels bad, but I'm super proud of the way she trained.

"She's been a great leader for us. Sometimes, just like in other sports, great athletes drop the ball in the end zone or a quarterback throws an interception. It happens. Those steps are mental errors."

At one point it appeared Biles might miss out on the eight-woman final of the uneven bars, but she squeezed in, benefiting from the rule that allows only two athletes from each nation in the final. Biles finished 10th in qualifying, but four Russian competitors were ahead of her, with two of those unable to advance.

It means she remains in the hunt for titles in all six of her events, including the team competition, for which Forster will look to ensure Biles and her team-mates are thoroughly prepared.

"Staying in bounds would help. Simone took three big steps on her beam dismount. I've never seen her do that before," Forster said.

The challenge of the Russian team could lift the Americans, or it could point to a changing of the guard at the top of women's gymnastics.

Forster is only looking to the former, saying: "This might be a great awakening for us, and we'll take advantage of it."

While 24-year-old Biles battles to recover peak form in time for Tuesday's team final, Olympic veteran Oksana Chusovitina has reached the end of the road in her Games career.

Competing at her eighth Olympics, the 46-year-old took part in the vault but failed to qualify for the final.

Chusovitina, who has previously competed for the Soviet Union and Germany and made her Games debut in 1992, was back representing her native Uzbekistan in Tokyo and received an ovation from her rivals after producing two valiant vaults.

"It was really nice. I cried tears of happiness because so many people have supported me for a long time," she said of the recognition.

"I feel very proud and happy. I'm saying goodbye to sports. It's kind of mixed feelings. I'm alive, I'm happy, I'm here without any injuries, and I can stand on my own."

Kohei Uchimura offered a reminder of the skillset that has brought him three Olympic gold medals before the unimaginable happened, delivering a major jolt to hosts Japan.

The veteran national sporting hero only entered the horizontal bar event at Tokyo 2020 and hoped to sign off his Games career with a golden flourish.

But on the first full day of competition at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Uchimura lost his grip after a mesmerising start to his routine, and fell down onto the crash mat.

His hopes not only of gold, but of a medal of any colour, were over. Uchimura was also certain to miss out on the final, and must have known that as he climbed back onto the bar, performing and dismounting flawlessly second time around.

Uchimura won all-around gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016, also taking team gold in Brazil five years ago. He also won two silver medals both in Beijing and London.

This time, his score of 13.866 put Uchimura way out of contention, and the 32-year-old accepted his fate.

"I couldn't perform what I have practised," he said. "That's how I simply think. In the last three Olympic Games I could perform what I practised. But I couldn't do that at these Olympics.

"I hit my peak already. It has been so tough to get selected as a national team member. That itself was already really tough. So maybe that's why."

Asked whether that would be his swansong, Uchimura asked for time to consider his future. Retirement is certainly an option.

"Let me think about it when I go back to the accommodation," he said. "But I have experienced the bottom of the bottom when I wasn't doing well. So I am not as disappointed as I expected."

Uchimura's exit was a blow to the Japan team, but there may be many highs still to come in the gymnastics arena.

That was Uchimura's view, after he took time to observe and was struck by the reality that Japanese gymnastics is moving into a new era, beyond his time as talisman.

"They are a really strong team," he said. "After I finished the horizontal bar and came back to the arena to watch, I saw them sorting out their problems on their own. I felt I wasn't needed anymore."

Japanese gymnastics great Kohei Uchimura dramatically tumbled out of Tokyo 2020 when he fell during qualifying for the horizontal bar final.

The home hope was bidding to add to his three Olympic gold medals but lost his grip during an elaborate part of his routine and slumped to the crash mat.

It meant his chances were over, despite Uchimura being able to get back on the apparatus, and the outcome left hosts Japan stunned. A sporting hero in his homeland, news of Uchimura's exit was instantly a top national news story.

Uchimura won all-around gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016, also taking team gold in Brazil five years ago, but his only event for the Tokyo Games was the horizontal bar.

His score of 13.866 put Uchimura well down on the scoreboard, in a lowly 18th place during the qualifying session, with only the top eight going through to the final.

The 32-year-old Uchimura has won seven Olympic medals in all, picking up four silvers to go with his gold haul, claiming two of those at Beijing in 2008 and two four years later in London.

Nina Christen of Switzerland finished 16th in the 10-metre air rifle at the Rio Olympics, but she became a footnote to history five years later as the first athlete to secure a medal at Tokyo 2020.

The 27-year-old locked up the bronze medal several minutes before China's Yang Qian beat Anastasiia Galashina of the Russian Olympic Committee to take gold in the first medal event of the Games.

As soon as she was eliminated from contention for the final two, Christen flashed a smile and waved, knowing she had at least won a spot on the podium this time – no small feat on this stage.

After the first medal ceremony of the Tokyo Games, she spoke about the pressure as the competition entered the final rounds.

"You just try to not reach your head out for the medal before you have the medal," Christen said. "That is the worst thing you could do. Having in your mind, 'Oh I could win a medal, or I could be eighth which would be a failure'.

"So you just try not to think about both of them, you just try and think about what your job is like breathing, holding, aiming, balance, triggering, and then follow through.

"It helps to not think about what is behind you and obviously there are a lot of cameras and a lot of people. And it would be even more if COVID would not have hit. So yeah that is the thing you have to do, otherwise you would just crack."

 

Sixth seed Swiatek rolls in tennis opener

Two seeded players enjoyed easy victories in the women's singles draw as play began at the Ariake Tennis Park.

Sixth-seeded Iga Swiatek of Poland, the 2020 French Open champion, cruised past Germany's Mona Barthel 6-2 6-2 to open her first Olympics.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 11th seed representing the Russian Olympic Committee, had an even easier time in a 6-0 6-1 rout of Italy's Sara Errani.

Pavlyuchenkova will face Germany's Anna-Lena Friedsam, who upset Great Britain's Heather Watson 7-6 6-3 in another early match.

In doubles, there was an eye-catching result for Britain's Andy Murray and Joe Salisbury, who took out French second seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, scoring a 6-3 6-2 victory.

 

Men's gymnastics gets under way

Nikita Nagornyy turned in the strongest showing in the opening group as men's gymnastics got under way.

Nagornyy, who won the all-around at the 2019 World Championships and was part of Russia's silver medal-winning team at Rio 2016, posted an 87.897 to lead subdivision one, which included gymnasts from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), China, Ukraine and Spain along with individuals from other nations.

But his showing was not enough to put the Russians on top, as China earned the top score in the group with a 262.061 to the ROC's 261.945. The top eight ranked teams qualify for the team final, with two subdivisions still to compete Saturday.

"I don't think our team was really good today, but we made our best effort," Nagronyy said. "We have a lot to do."

 

Brazilians start strongly on the beach

Brazil's two returning beach volleyball medallists are off to a strong start five years later.

Alison Cerutti won gold in Rio and is teamed with new partner Alvaro Morais Filho for Tokyo. They won their opening match 2-0 against Argentina's Nicolas Capogrosso and Julian Amado Azaad.

On the women's side, Rio silver medallist Agatha Bednarczuk, also with a new partner in Eduarda Santos Lisboa, won by the same score against Ana Gallay and Fernanda Pereyra of Argentina.

While she was happy to advance, Agatha found the difference between Rio's raucous crowds and Tokyo's COVID-driven quiet jarring.

"It's so different. In Brazil we have the biggest support there. Many, many people cheering for us, and here, it's silence," she said.

"Here we need to put our emotion (aside) because we don't receive the emotion from the people. For me, this is very important because I like to play with emotions."

Jamaica gymnast Danusia Francis is unsure of when she sustained a competition-ending knee injury, and will only be able to symbolically compete in Saturday’s competition, but insists she remains proud to represent the country regardless.

The 27-year-old was diagnosed with a torn ACL on Friday and will now only take part in the Athletics Gymnastics Uneven Bars event at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.  Even so, the gymnast will not be able to fully compete as she will be unable to do a dismount routine.

 “I hope to do some sort of bar routine just to get a score on the board but without a dismount, it won’t be a competitive score, but I’ll be happy to see Jamaica represented at the Olympic Games and I still feel very proud to be wearing the Jamaican flag,” Francis told the press.

“The knee, I think, is getting worse and worse, so I can’t really tell you the exact time when the ligament damage occurred, but I found out today what it actually was and it will drastically affect my competition, unfortunately.”

  The Artistic Gymnastics competition is set to start tomorrow with the Uneven Bars finals for women taking place on Sunday.  The athlete will miss out on competing on the Balance Beam, Floor Exercise, and Vault.

 The gymnast admits the injury had come as a huge blow.

“I’m really upset to have hurt myself. I have been so prepared for this competition mentally and physically up to this point so to, at the last hurdle, be injured is disappointing. Luckily, the medics have taken really good care of me and I’m sure they will continue to do so.”

 

 Jamaica gymnast, Danusia Francis, will be unable to compete in the majority of her scheduled events for the Tokyo Olympics after suffering a torn ACL.

Francis, the country’s lone competitor in Artistic Gymnastics, was scheduled to take part in the four-event Women’s All-Round competition on Sunday.

After suffering a knee injury, however, the 27-year has had to alter those plans.  The results of an MRI, taken in the Olympic Village on Friday, showed that the damage to the joint was worse than hoped for.

As a result, Francis will only be able to compete on the Uneven Bars, which is the apparatus that is least likely to cause further damage to the injured joint.  That means the athlete will skip the Vault, Balance Beam, and Floor exercises.

Francis is the second female gymnast to represent Jamaica at the Olympic Games following in the footsteps of Toni-Ann Williams, who at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was the first female gymnast to compete for Jamaica at the Olympics.

The gymnast was able to qualify for the Games based on her performance at the 2019 World Championships.  She finished among the top 20 athletes who were not on a qualifying team. She ranked ninth in the group of competitors.

Germany's female gymnasts are preparing to compete at the Tokyo Olympics with a strikingly different look after packing unitards alongside leotards in their kit bags.

The unitard has characteristics of the traditional leotard but comes with attached leggings that run down to the ankles, being designed for comfort.

It was described by the German Gymnastics Federation (DTB) in April as being a move "against sexualisation in gymnastics".

The DTB said the kit's purpose was "to present aesthetically – without feeling uncomfortable", and after a positive pilot at the European Championships in Basle, an Olympic Games version of the kit has been launched for Team Deutschland's competitors.

Elisabeth Seitz, set to compete in her third Olympics, said: "It's about what feels comfortable. We wanted to show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear.

"Most people were positive about it. But after the European Championships the time was way too short for others to design a unitard. Maybe in the future. We really hope so."

It is not a given that Germany will wear the unitard for competition at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, but that is an option. The team will vote on whether to don the leotard or unitard ahead of Sunday's qualification event.

"We decided this is the most comfortable leotard for today. That doesn't mean we don't want to wear the normal leotard any more," Seitz said. "It is a decision day by day, based on how we feel and what we want. On competition day, we will decide what to wear."

The Germany team's move comes at a time when there is scrutiny on the demands put on female sports stars when it comes to their attire.

Norway's beach handball team were fined as their shorts were ruled to be too long, while British Paralympic long-jumper Olivia Breen was told by an official her briefs were too short.

The German gymnasts have found support for their mission, with Games newcomer Sarah Voss saying: "We girls had a big influence on this. The coaches were also very much into it.

"They said they want us to feel the most confident and comfortable in any case. It just makes you feel better and more comfortable."

Jamaica has suffered an injury blow ahead of the start of the Tokyo Olympics this weekend.

The artistic gymnastics competition for women is scheduled to begin on Sunday morning in Japan (Saturday night in the Caribbean)

Members of the country’s 62-member team are arriving in Tokyo ahead of the games that officially begin tomorrow morning and right off the bat, it appears as if injury is playing an early role.

Gymnast Danusia Francis has revealed that she had an injured left knee. The severity of the injury is unknown but she is still managing to get her practice sessions in albeit with some amount of caution. The athlete, only the second female gymnast to represent Jamaica at the Olympics, posted pictures on her Instagram account knee on Tuesday and again on Wednesday that showed her heavily bandaged knee.

On Friday morning, she confirmed what the pictures were showing when she posted, “The arena is stunning. Unfortunately, I do have a knee injury so only bars today, but happy with my performance and enjoyed myself out there.” It is unclear whether she suffered the injury prior to or after her arrival in Japan.

She also posted a video of herself leaping and landing with stability, which might be an indication that the injury is not too severe.

Francis is expected to perform well at the Olympics on the strength of outstanding performances in her routines in Spain in June while competing for gymnastics club Xelska.

“My performances were really good. I was extremely happy with my bar routine, I got a really good score there, and then my vault was good,” she said at the time.

“I did make a mistake on (the) beam but as I mentioned, I was only supposed to do three of the events and the beam was a last-minute decision so I was a bit flustered and it was kind of an uncharacteristic mistake so nothing that I can’t fix.”

 

 

A female United States gymnast has tested positive for coronavirus while training in Tokyo ahead of the Olympics, the US Olympic Committee (USOC) has confirmed.

The unnamed athlete was an alternate – a team member included as a reserve – and will now isolate along with another team member who has been identified as a close contact.

"The health and safety of our athletes, coaches and staff is our top priority," a USOC statement read.

"We can confirm that an alternate on the women's artistic gymnastics team tested positive for COVID-19.

"Out of respect for the individual's privacy, we cannot provide more information at this time."

The positive test comes just four days before the delayed Games begins, with fellow US female gymnast Simone Biles set to be one of the stars of the competition.

The 24-year-old won four gold medals and a bronze at Rio 2016 and will be looking to add to that haul when the women's gymnastics competition starts on July 25.

It was also confirmed on Monday that Czech Republic beach volleyball player Ondrej Perusic tested positive for COVID-19.

Perusic and playing partner David Schweiner are due to begin their Tokyo 2020 campaign against Latvia on July 26, but the Czech Olympic Committee will seek to postpone the game until Perusic is cleared to play.

The number of Games-linked individuals to have tested positive for coronavirus since testing began on July 1 stood at 60 on Monday.

South Africa's men's football pair Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi were the first two athletes inside the Olympic Village to test positive over the weekend.

Around 11,000 athletes from 205 national Olympic committees are expected to stay at the village over the next three weeks.

The 2020 Games, delayed by a year due to the global health pandemic, will be held mostly without spectators due to a state of emergency being declared in Tokyo.

Infection rates in the Japanese capital have topped 1,000 for five days running, with a seven-day average of 1,068 as of Sunday.

The sporting calendar provides many memorable days throughout the year but rarely do elite events overlap as often as at the Olympics.

At this year's delayed Tokyo Games, there is the prospect of seeing several of the world's top athletes all competing for gold at the same time.

August 1 looks a good bet for the standout day in 2021.

The final round of the men's golf event could see Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm in the mix, with Andy Murray hopeful he will meanwhile be defending consecutive singles gold medals in the tennis.

This comes on the same day that Simone Biles could potentially become the most decorated Olympic gymnast of all time.

As if that were not enough, the men's 100m final is another must-watch event.

Expectations will be high heading into that second Sunday of the Games, with examples from the past three competitions living up to their billing...

AUGUST 16, BEIJING 2008

Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt would be firmly in contention to appear on the Games' own Mount Rushmore and each enjoyed one of the finest moments of their respective careers on the same day.

Phelps had spent the opening week of the Beijing Olympics pursuing Mark Spitz's 1972 record of seven golds and had six as he entered the pool again for the 100m butterfly final, almost 12 hours before Bolt's big moment.

Seventh at the turn, the United States superstar needed a remarkable recovery to triumph over a devastated Milorad Cavic by 0.01 seconds.

Phelps would pass Spitz with his eighth gold of the Games the following day, by which point he was sharing the headlines with Jamaica's own ultimate athlete.

Bolt's blistering 9.69-second final triumph in the 100m stood as a world record until the same man beat it exactly a year later. The new benchmark remains unmatched.

And that Saturday in China also saw the small matter of Roger Federer's only gold medal, claimed alongside Stan Wawrinka in the doubles final after falling to James Blake as the top seed in the singles.

AUGUST 4-5, LONDON 2012

It is actually tough to choose just one day from the 2012 Olympics, where this weekend delivered from start to finish.

On the Saturday evening, at the Aquatics Centre, swimming prepared to say goodbye to its greatest name. Phelps and the United States won the 4x100m medley, clinching his 18th gold medal in what appeared set to be his final race.

Indeed, Phelps confirmed his retirement following the Games, only to return in predictably dominant fashion in 2016.

Across the city that same night, Team GB athletes were capping a stunning run of medals that would see the day dubbed "Super Saturday". There were six home golds in all, including big wins for Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford and Mo Farah in quick succession.

The drama only continued the next day, too, as Murray finally sealed a Wimbledon win over Roger Federer in the tennis event, while Bolt lit up London Stadium in the 100m.

AUGUST 14, RIO 2016

Although there will be no Bolt brilliance in Tokyo, Brazil was treated to another show as he became the first three-time winner of the 100m – later doing likewise in the 200m.

The first triumph was almost overshadowed on the track, however, coming shortly after Wayde van Niekerk had broken Michael Johnson's 17-year 400m world record by 0.15 seconds.

Again, the excitement was not reserved for athletics, with Murray in action that evening to claim another gold after coming through a four-hour epic against Juan Martin del Potro.

Murray is the only player – men's or women's – to win consecutive singles golds, while Rafael Nadal's presence added a little more stardust even though he lost the bronze final to Kei Nishikori.

A stunning Sunday also saw Biles add to the reputation she takes with her to Tokyo, a third gold on the vault making her the most decorated American gymnast.

And there was history, too, for Justin Rose, as he edged past Henrik Stenson at the 18th hole of the fourth round to become the first Olympic golf champion in 112 years.

Comaneci, Korbut, Biles, Scherbo. Those names are as engrained into Olympic legend as Bolt, Beamon, Griffith-Joyner and Owens.

Gymnastics might pass under many radars outside Games time, but television chiefs have it down as a ratings-winning banker.

There is no other sport that combines quite the same level of athleticism, artistry and acrobatic magnificence, and pairs those factors with a stack of glamour and more than a hint of danger.

Most viewers of the Olympics will know how it feels to casually sprint 100 metres or swim a length or two, but the parallel bars, the pommel horse and the beam were typically last experienced as dreaded apparatus hauled out of school sports equipment vaults.

Anybody who avoided making a muggins of themselves deserved immediate respect, with these implements of humiliation ripe for dishing out a torturing.

On the Olympic stage, we see the human species at its most agile, yet vulnerable too, and that is why gymnastics has been the most viewed sport in the Games on American networks for many years.

Here, Stats Perform looks at three of the great Olympic gymnasts of the last 50 years, and considers who might emerge as a star at the Ariake venue in Tokyo this year.


GAMES GREATS

Nadia Comaneci: The Perfect 10

When Romanian Comaneci scored the first 'Perfect 10' in Olympic history at the Montreal Games of 1976, famously even the scoreboards were unprepared for her fabulous feat. They showed 1.00, with the Omega technology not built to display top marks. Comaneci was 14 years old, and she had made history on the uneven bars in the team competition. It was incredibly just the start of a run of 10s from Comaneci, who produced six more during her heady time in Canada, winning gold medals in the all-around event, the uneven bars and the balance beam.

 

Olga Korbut: Flipping brilliant

The young Comaneci would have watched Korbut dazzle at the 1972 Munich Olympics, where the 17-year-old brought daring new routines to the Games stage. Her backflip to catch on the uneven bars drew gasps from the crowd and media alike. Television footage from the time shows Korbut produce her mesmerising routine, with one commentator questioning: "Has that been done before by a girl?". His colleague responds: "Never, not by any human I know of!"

The Korbut flip was born, a backward somersault on the beam followed, and millions across the globe watched in astonishment at her audacity and execution. The teenager from the Soviet Union won gold medals in the team, floor and balance beam disciplines, pushing gymnastics to new heights.

Vitaly Scherbo: Barcelona bounty

It has often been the case that women gymnasts have attracted more admiration than the men, but in 1992 it was Scherbo who stole the show. The 20-year-old Belarusian was a colossus, winning six gold medals for the Unified Team of former Soviet states with a revelatory exhibition of physical strength, craft and control.

Scherbo became champion at the parallel bars, vault, rings, pommel horse, team event and the all-around event. His haul of golds has only ever been surpassed in a single Olympics by swimmers: Michael Phelps (eight gold medals at Beijing 2008) and Mark Spitz (seven golds at Munich).


TOKYO CALLING

Simone Biles: Great already, and now back for more

What does Biles have in store for a Tokyo encore to her spectacular Rio performance? It was well known before the 2016 Olympics was that Biles was rather special, and the American delivered on the biggest stage, with four gold medals and a solitary bronze, becoming the first quadruple Olympic gymnastic champion since 1984 when the great Romanian Ecaterina Szabo also achieved success on that scale. Biles, a formidable character and sensational competitor, is stretching the limits of athletic achievement every time she competes, taking her beloved sport to new audiences and inspiring generations of youngsters to try the sport.

Now 24 years old, Biles appears to be in great shape for more success in Japan, but watch out for her team-mate Suni Lee too. The 18-year-old outscored Biles on day two of the US Olympic trials

Tang Xijing: China's great hope

Could Chinese teenager Tang be in the picture to deny Biles the all-around title in Tokyo? The 18-year-old took a surprise silver behind Biles at the 2019 World Championship, and it remains to be seen whether that was a one-off or if she can limit the errors that have at times impeded her success and strike again for a medal.

She seems sure to be somewhere in the frame, but the Olympics demands perfection or at least somewhere close to it. Tang has abundant talent, and how she competes against the world's best again, after being limited lately to domestic competition, will be one of many matters of intrigue under the spotlight in the Ariake gymnastics hall.

Danusia Francis got a good warm-up for the Summer Olympic Games this weekend while competing for Xelska in Spain's Liga Iberdrola in the city of Gironella.

President of the Jamaica Gymnastics Association has described Alana Walker’s historic bronze medal performance in women artistic gymnastics at the Junior Pan Am Gymnastics Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Saturday as a major boost for the sport locally, one that could help the association generate desperately needed funding.

The 14-year-old Walker scored 49.850 to finish third in the All-Around – bars, beam, floor and vault - that was won by the USA’s Katelyn Jong with a score of 54.10.  Her compatriot Madray Johnson scored 53.550 for second place. It was the first time that Jamaica has ever won a medal in gymnastics at a major event.

By winning the bronze medal, Alana, who is coached by Ashley Brooke Umberger at North Stars Gymnastics in Boonton, New Jersey, automatically qualifies for the Junior Pan Am Championships in Colombia later this year.

Grant, who spoke to Sportsmax.TV from Panama said this victory provides the push needed for the sport to continue to grow locally.

“Every appearance at any international competition of this nature is always a boost for the sport, that is what we thrive to be a part of and that is why we are working on our programme to ensure that we can participate and compete effectively as a country, as young as our sport is locally,” Grant told Sportsmax.TV today.

“This major win for us is very important to the growth and development of our local sport because it shows that we have the ability and the capability to do well in gymnastics.

“This is also a major boost for our young gymnasts who are preparing for a youth competition in Colombia later this year, the Pan American Age-Group Hopes Tournament where the age-group levels are from age eight right up to age 14 and she will also be competing in the elite category as well.”

Notwithstanding these achievements, Grant said, the sport continues to face significant obstacles.

“Our setback is equipment, landing equipment, something that we have been campaigning for, for some time now and it’s very important because when someone like Alana comes to Jamaica and trains at the gym, the landing equipment is not good enough at this time because of the kind of skills that she or he has,” Grant said.

“And that is why we are working so hard because when our elite athletes come to Jamaica they are in awe of the gym but as it relates to the landing aspect, it’s just not up to the standard and it’s really dangerous for them to train their high-level skills.”

Grant thanked the Jamaica Olympic Association, which she said, did not hesitate to provide funding for the trip, despite the ‘last-minute request’.  She also thanked Alana’s parents, who “have always been there and have put out a lot of effort to ensure that she got the documentation in order for her to compete at the event.

She also expressed her gratitude to Marlene Hylton-Williams, who was instrumental in helping Alana getting the license that allowed her to be able to compete and Naomi Valenza, who allowed Alana’s late entry to be accepted into the tournament.

  

Jamaican artistic gymnast Danusia Francis has heaped praises on the Institute of Sports (INSPORTS) for providing her with funding as she fine-tunes her preparation for the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July.

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