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KITAKYUSHU, Japan (AP) — Angelina Melnikova of Russia won the women’s all-around final on Thursday to claim the first gold medal of the gymnastics world championships.
Melnikova, the 2020 Olympic all-around bronze medalist, built up a solid lead with high scores on the vault and uneven bars and finished with 56.632 points.
With defending champion Simone Biles and Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Sunisa Lee of the United States not taking part, the stage was set for a new generation of gymnasts to emerge.
Leanne Wong of the United States was second with 56.340 points, followed by teammate Kayla DiCello with bronze at 54.566.
The 21-year-old Melnikova, an Olympic team gold medalist in Tokyo, won the bronze medal at the 2019 worlds. She had won four medals from past world championships but had never claimed a world title until Thursday.
Melnikova will also compete in all four apparatus finals over the weekend, the first woman to qualify for all five individual finals since Biles in 2018.
“I’m very happy with this result because I only had one month to prepare,” said Melnikova, the first Russian to win the women’s all-around title since Aliya Mustafina in 2010. “I feel like I made history tonight. I would be very happy if I could get five gold medals here.”
Wong was a traveling alternative to the U.S. team at the Tokyo Games but was forced to spend most of her time at the Olympics in quarantine after her roommate, Kara Eaker, tested positive for COVID-19.
“I’m really happy with this experience since last time (in Tokyo) I didn’t even really get to work out," Wong said. "I think we did a really good job for the next generation and setting the stage.”
DiCello is the 2019 junior world champion on vault.
None of the six women who represented the United States at the Olympics are in Kitakyushu. Lee is competing on “Dancing With the Stars” before beginning her first year at Auburn, while Biles and the other 2020 Olympians are taking part in a national tour.
Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, who won silver in the all-around at the Tokyo Olympics, opted not to participate on Thursday citing injury concerns but will compete in other events.
Hitomi Hatakeda of Japan was forced to pull out of the all-around final after a fall in training on Wednesday. Hatakeda, who had qualified for Thursday’s final, was diagnosed with damage to her central spinal cord after falling while practicing on the uneven bars.
Vladislava Urazova of Russia finished fourth with 53.598 points, followed by Naomi Visser of the Netherlands with 52.832.
The gymnastics world championships are the first major international sports event to be held in Japan since the Olympics. Unlike at the Tokyo Games, spectators are permitted at the Kitakyushu General Gymnasium.
The men’s all-around is on Friday. The world championships wrap up with individual event finals on Saturday and Sunday. There is no team competition in the world championships immediately after an Olympics.
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