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U.S. men’s gymnastics team ends world championships medal drought

Richards' routine clinches bronze for U.S. men
Fred Richards' high bar routine clinches the bronze medal for the U.S. men's gymnastics team at the World Gymnastics Championships, its first team medal at an Olympics or world championships since 2014.

The U.S. men’s gymnastics team took bronze at the world championships, ending its longest global medal drought in two decades.

Japan won the team title at worlds for the first time since 2015, defeating rival and defending champion China by 1.8 points in Antwerp, Belgium.

A young U.S. team — the top three from August’s nationals were 19 (Asher Hong), 20 (Khoi Young) and 19 (Fred Richard) — delivered on promise that made it a medal favorite going into the meet.

The Americans distanced last year’s bronze medalist, Great Britain, by 2.967.

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The U.S. won its first team medal at an Olympics or worlds since 2014, ending its longest podium drought since a gap from 1984 to 2001. It improved from fifth-place finishes at the Tokyo Olympics and last year’s worlds.

Hong, who in August became the youngest U.S. men’s all-around champion since 1989, delivered the team’s biggest score — a 15.1-point vault.

The Americans overcame an early rocky pommel horse — their trademark weak apparatus — to clinch bronze on their last event, high bar, where they sent up three worlds rookies.

Young and Richard, who each fell off the bar in qualifying, stayed on this time in a clutch rotation with Paul Juda.

“We always like to say, the real gymnasts show up fifth and sixth event,” said Young, this year’s breakout star after withdrawing from last year’s nationals due to injury in 10th place. “I’m not a high bar guy, so I was a little nervous. But I had these guys behind me.”

Yul Moldauer, 27 and the lone team member with Olympic experience, became the oldest U.S. man to win a world medal in 20 years.

“I could tell when we talked about lineups a couple days before, just the look that they [my teammates] had at me,” said Moldauer, explaining the decision to have him go first on floor exercise to start the night. “I was like, you know what, this is my job, and if I can do a good set and just get the ball rolling, I know that these guys will go out there with confidence.”

The Americans stood on the podium without Brody Malone, the 2021 and 2022 national all-around champion. He plans to return early next year from at least three right leg surgeries after a high bar dismount fall on March 18.

The U.S. will hope Malone’s comeback, plus the continued maturation of this young group, can help it challenge longtime powers China and Japan at the Paris Olympics. The U.S. finished behind those two at every Olympics or worlds since 2004.

The U.S. finished 1.366 points behind China on Tuesday, the closest it has been to either China or Japan in an Olympic or world final since 2011. Granted, China had a depleted team at these worlds with some of its best gymnasts competing at last week’s Asian Games instead.

“We have so much potential to go,” Richard said. “We were there on the third place [step] so happy, but we were like, wow, we can really get to that first place, too.”

Russian gymnasts won the Tokyo Olympic title, but Russia missed the deadline to qualify for the Paris Games due to its ban since shortly after the invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine qualified in the 12th and final spot for the Olympics in Russia’s absence.

Worlds continue Wednesday with Simone Biles leading a U.S. women’s team eyeing a record-breaking seventh consecutive title (1:30 p.m. ET, Peacock).