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Flavia Saraiva

The excitement in the arena for the final women’s subdivision at Pan Am Championships in Rio de Janeiro was through the roof, and the Brazilian women – including 2020 Olympic champion and 2021 world champion Rebeca Andrade and two-time Olympian Flavia Saraiva – did not disappoint, winning three gold medals and leading the team’s qualification both into Sunday’s final and for this year’s world championships.

While Andrade was the main attraction, and delivered on every expectation the crowd had for her, it was Saraiva who stole the show with one of the best all-around performances of her career. After an injury on floor limited her in Tokyo last summer, taking her out of all-around contention and holding her back in the beam final, Saraiva took a break, returning on beam in May. But last night marked her first all-around performance since world championships in 2019, and she exceeded my every expectation, showing a strong Yurchenko double, one of her better-quality bars sets, and brilliant work on beam and floor.

Saraiva’s beam performance was the highlight of the competition, with everything coming together to create a routine that looked exactly the way beam should, from her acro to her dance to how she expressed herself and performed throughout. She was equally excellent on floor, just losing a little here and there for some of her tumbling lines, though her performance was stunning as always.

At the end of the day, Saraiva reached a 55.399 to win the all-around title by more than a point, and she also won the gold on beam with a 14.433 as well as the silver on floor with a 13.333. The all-around and beam titles were the first continental gold medals of her career, and her first international titles since she won gold on floor at the Cottbus world cup in 2018.

While Andrade didn’t compete floor here, she also stole the show in her own right. On vault, she showed a huge and gorgeous Yurchenko double that earned a massive 14.5, and her work on bars looked effortless, with smooth connections and sharp technique earning a 14.967 to take the title by nearly a point. There were a few checks throughout her beam set, but overall she was clean enough and had high enough difficulty to still put her above a 14, giving her the silver medal behind Saraiva.

The rest of the team wasn’t quite at the same level as its two stars, but Julia Soares was entertaining and lovely to watch on both beam and floor, and while both Carolyne Pedro and Christal Bezerra had mistakes, both are capable of really impressive work, and can hopefully come back stronger on Sunday.

At the end of the competition, Brazil wound up with a 161.967 team total, upsetting the American women by over a point to qualify in first place both into the team final – which will be held on Sunday – and for qualifications to world championships.

The U.S. women had a mostly good day, though unfortunately fell apart on beam, counting two routines with falls into their total score. There were also a few problems elsewhere that added up, though newcomer Lexi Zeiss in her international debut was confident, clean, and solid from start to finish, putting up a 54.199 in the all-around to secure silver ahead of the more experienced international competitors on the team.

Zeiss, 16, qualified elite for the first time last year, as a first-year senior, but missed earning a spot at nationals. After a gym transfer and some more attention to difficulty and detail, she turned heads with the best all-around performance of her career at the Pan Ams selection camp, a performance she bested by about a tenth in Rio. With a solid Yurchenko double on vault, and tidy work in the rest of her routines, Zeiss looked like a veteran, and is someone the U.S. is lucky to have add to its depth this quad.

Despite a fall on beam and some weak landings on floor, Skye Blakely still managed to earn all-around bronze with a 52.933 as well as the floor bronze with a 13.267, while Kayla DiCello in her first competition of the season finished fifth all-around with a 51.967. DiCello downgraded to a Yurchenko full on vault, holding her back a bit from the start, and then she had to fight through a couple of issues on bars while on beam, she both fell and then later grabbed the apparatus. But she came back to hit a strong routine on floor to win the gold with a 13.467.

Also competing for the U.S. were Elle Mueller, who fell on beam and was a bit weak in her form on both vault and floor, though she hit both and her beam aside from the fall was lovely, and Zoe Miller, who competed only on bars. She had a couple of iffy moments where she looked like she released the bar a bit too early, including on the Maloney and going into her dismount, but she had no problem fixing both areas, and thanks to her quick thinking and 6.5 difficulty, Miller managed a 14.133 to take the silver.

Canada ended up in third place with a 157.566, followed by Argentina in fourth with a 149.932, and Mexico in fifth with a 149.799 to round out the teams that earned berths for world championships.

All three all-arounders from Canada finished in the top seven, with Sydney Turner in fourth with a 52.600, Rose Woo in sixth with a 51.667, and Denelle Pedrick in seventh with a 51.533. Turner had strong and solid work across the board, with her bars a huge standout here, earning a 13.967 to upset several other strong bars podium contenders for the bronze. Woo had a fall on beam, but returned with excellent work elsewhere, while Pedrick hit all of her routines, including a Yurchenko double on vault, where she finished fourth.

Both Pedrick and Ava Stewart, who competed bars and beam, got bars skills named for them, including Pedrick’s clear hip straight into a Pak salto, and Stewart’s piked double front dismount, which landed low but was still a hit. Shallon Olsen also competed for the team, finishing fifth on vault.

Argentina had a young team here, with three 2005-born athletes leading as all-arounders, including Brisa Carraro in eighth with a 50.433, Meline Mesropian in ninth with a 49.300, and Rocio Saucedo in 12th with a 48.567. Carraro is lovely, and has so much potential to increase her score, especially on beam, and while Saucedo didn’t have the best day, she hit where the team needed her most, on beam. We also saw veteran Sira Macias with a strong bars set, while 2020 Olympian Abigail Magistrati competed everything but bars, though unfortunately had falls on vault and beam.

I was initially worried about Mexico’s ability to qualify to worlds after they started out with a 9.233 on floor and then counted all 11-range scores, but they quickly came back on vault, with two huge sets from Natalia Escalera and Ahtziri Sandoval, who both performed two vaults and won the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

Sandoval was also excellent on bars, as was Paulina Campos, and though the team struggled to get through beam, the scores built from the previous two events were more than enough to hold them above water. Campos was the top all-arounder for Mexico, finishing ninth with a 49.767, followed by Escalera in 11th with a 49.166 and Sandoval in 23rd with a 46.100. The team also saw routines from Paulina Vargas on beam and floor, and from Greys Briceño on bars in her senior debut.

Though they missed qualifying to worlds, the other teams qualifying to Sunday’s final included Colombia in sixth with a 143.465, Chile in seventh with a 142.468, and Cuba in eighth with a 134.999. Initially Jamaica was eighth with a 135.368, but today the standings have a one-point neutral deduction subtracted from their total, knocking them down to ninth with a 134.368.

The top 11 all-arounders not part of the top five teams earned individual nominative berths for worlds, which included Tyesha Mattis of Jamaica in 14th with a 48.467, Valentina Pardo of Colombia in 15th with a 48.100, Ana Karina Mendez of Peru in 16th with a 47.700, Antonia Marihuan of Chile in 17th with a 47.201, Ginna Escobar of Colombia in 18th with a 46.667, Milca Leon of Venezuela in 19th with a 46.499, Franchesca Santi of Chile in 20th with a 46.400, Alais Perea of Ecuador in 21st with a 46.366, Annalise Newman-Achee of Trinidad & Tobago in 22nd with a 46.266, Franciny Morales of Costa Rica in 24th with a 45.900, and Karla Navas of Panama in 25th with a 45.700.

Navas also performed two vaults, and surprised to win the title with a 13.333 average after getting the same score on both of her runs. I was sad to see her teammate Hillary Heron, who just won the all-around bronze at the Bolivarian Games, struggle throughout her performance to miss out on worlds despite coming into this meet as one of the top challengers, but I’m glad Panama still got one athlete to Liverpool, and that Navas made history with her medal success.

I was also sad to see Olivia Kelly of Barbados miss out. Kelly had one of the best beam performances of the competition and showed equally great work on floor in what was both her and Barbados’ international debut in the sport, and she also hit a strong Yurchenko full on vault, but she sadly struggled on bars with a number of falls, and despite being on path for around a 50 in the all-around, she ended up 26th with a 44.900. Still, it was an exciting debut, and with a little more time and experience, I have no reason to doubt that Kelly will be back as a top contender for worlds next year, and also as an individual with potential to qualify to Paris 2024.

In addition to Barbados, we won’t see WAG representation from Aruba, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Puerto Rico based on both yesterday’s results in Rio, and also on the fact that none of these programs have athletes in the mix from the apparatus world cup qualifiers.

Pan Ams served as the fourth of five continental qualifiers for world championships, with the series wrapping up next month at European Championships, after which the apparatus qualifiers will be named. You can follow the women’s worlds qualification process on our WAG tracker, which has a detailed list of all teams and individuals that have qualified so far for 2022.

Article by Lauren Hopkins


By: Lauren
Title: Saraiva Wins Pan Ams All-Around Title as Brazil Leads Team Qualification for Worlds
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Published Date: Sat, 16 Jul 2022 20:35:00 +0000

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Report: Lionel Messi Will Come To MLS And Join Inter Miami



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The greatest footballer to ever live is coming to Major League Soccer. According to multiple media reports, Lionel Messi, whose departure from Paris Saint-Germain was announced earlier this year, has decided to join Inter Miami, marking the end of a years-long pursuit by the side that played its first game in MLS back in 2020.

News of Messi’s decision began to trickle in starting on Tuesday, with The Athletic reporting that Messi would eschew a lucrative offer to join the Saudi Pro League to pursue one of two options: Miami or FC Barcelona, the club with which he turned into the best player on the planet.

On Wednesday, the news of Messi’s decision started to crystalize thanks to Guillem Balagué, a Spanish journalist who authored Messi’s biography in 2013, along with a handful of other European journalists.

And then, right around midday on the east coast, word came from Fabrizio Romano that Messi is, indeed, on his way to the United States.

Much has been made of the circumstances around which Miami would be able to afford Messi. There have been reports that every MLS team will pitch in to help Miami afford Messi, with the belief that his addition would help the league’s bottom line. And as The Athletic reported, two of MLS’ main financial partners, Apple and adidas (the latter of which has a lifelong sponsorship with Messi), are rumored to be playing a role in getting him to the States.

Multiple sources involved in or briefed on the high-level league discussions said earlier this week that MLS and Apple have discussed offering Messi a share of the revenue generated by new subscribers to MLS Season Pass, the league’s streaming package on Apple TV+. Both sides view Messi’s potential involvement in Major League Soccer as a boon; Apple and MLS signed a 10-year, $2.5 billion agreement this spring. On Tuesday, Apple revealed that a four-part docuseries chronicling Messi’s five World Cup appearances would stream on Apple TV+.
Adidas, which is among MLS’ largest corporate sponsors, has prepared its own potential arrangement to entice Messi to the United States, multiple sources briefed on those plans told The Athletic on Tuesday. Messi is being offered a profit-sharing agreement with the sportswear giant, those sources said, which would involve the player receiving a cut of any increase in Adidas’ profits resulting from his involvement in MLS.

It is worth mentioning that, on Tuesday, Apple TV+ announced that Messi will be the subject of a four-part docuseries, although there was no mention of this being linked with a move to MLS.

Messi will join a Miami side in the midst of a tumultuous season. The team finds itself in last place in the Eastern Conference on 15 points, although it is only six points behind Charlotte for the final playoff spot and has a game in hand, and last week, Miami fired its head coach, Phil Neville. This would not be the first time the club has a high-profile Argentinian forward in its ranks, as Gonzalo Higuaín, a former teammate of Messi’s at the international level, spent the last 2.5 years with the club before his retirement.

Messi’s bonafides in the world of soccer are unmatched. He holds a record seven Ballon d’Ors, given annually to the best footballer in the world, has won his domestic league in Spain and France a combined 12 times, and is a four-time winner of the Champions League, all from his time as a member of Barcelona. Last year, Messi obtained the final major trophy that had eluded him throughout his career, as he led Argentina to its first World Cup since 1986.


By: Bill DiFilippo
Title: Report: Lionel Messi Will Come To MLS And Join Inter Miami
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Published Date: Wed, 07 Jun 2023 15:57:33 +0000

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Finals MVP Could Go To Nikola Jokić Even If Heat Win, Says Wright




Finals MVP Could Go To Nikola Jokić Even If Heat Win, Says Wright – originally posted on

Nikola Jokić has made his mark on the NBA this postseason, turning heads around the league with his incredible play while leading the Denver Nuggets to the 2023 Finals. He has been the best player in each series thus far, and has continued his dominance during the first two games against the Miami Heat.

Wright: Nikola Jokić Can Win MVP Even If Nuggets Lose

With Jokic being the top overall performer thus far, Finals MVP talk has begun. The series is tied 1-1 and feels as though it could go either way, but there hasn’t been a Heat player that has overwhelming impressed in the first two contests.

The attack for Miami has been evenly distributed. Three players scored 21+ in Game 2, and three went for 18+ in Game 1 as well. Bam Adebayo led the way in the first game with 26, and Gabe Vincent was the leading scorer in the Heat’s Game 2 victory.

And while Jimmy Butler has been the go-to player for the Heat throughout the team’s impressive playoff run, he hasn’t been his dominant self over the last 8 or so games. His numbers and percentages have dipped noticeably against the Celtics and Nuggets, and has shot a combined 13 for 33 from the field in the first two finals games.

So if they Heat were able to pull off the upset, who would be named MVP?

It can be argued that Adebayo has been the team’s best player in the Finals so far. But is his performance sustainable over the course of the entire series? And would it be enough to warrant being named the most valuable player?

Fox Sports personality Nick Wright has his own opinions on the matter during First Things First on Wednesday morning. The crew on the show was talking about the possible MVP candidates for the series, and Wright explained why he’d be okay with Nikola Jokic receiving the hardware, even if he was on the losing team.

“If this series continues on this track where no one on the Heat averages more than 21 a game, and Joker has these unbelievable games and the Heat win, I would be okay with it…The best player is not always on the team that won.”

The feat has only happened once before. Jerry West was named Finals MVP in 1969 after his Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in seven games. But there was no denying West’s dominance in that series, as he averaged 38 points, 7.4 assists, and 4.7 rebounds per game on 49% shooting.

Nikola Jokic put up a triple-double in his first NBA Finals game, and followed it up with a 41 point performance in the Nuggets’ Game 2 defeat.

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By: Anthony R. Cardenas
Title: Finals MVP Could Go To Nikola Jokić Even If Heat Win, Says Wright
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Published Date: Wed, 07 Jun 2023 16:35:12 +0000

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Lionel Messi, Soccer’s Most Coveted Free Agent, Picks Miami



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Lionel Messi, the player who has captivated and to a large extent dominated global soccer for a generation, declared on Wednesday that the next stop in his glittering career would be the United States.

In an interview with two Spanish sports news outlets, Messi confirmed that he planned to sign a contract with Inter Miami, the M.L.S. team part-owned by David Beckham. He declined an offer to play in Saudi Arabia, which pays him to promote Saudi tourism and is seeking to build its national league by signing international stars.

“I made the decision that I am going to go to Miami,” Messi told Sport and Mundo Deportivo. “I still haven’t closed it 100 percent. I’m missing some things, but we decided to continue the path.”

M.L.S. acknowledged Messi’s decision in a statement, saying, “We look forward to welcoming one of the greatest soccer players of all time to our league,” but noted no deal had been completed.

The finest player of his generation, and quite possibly the best of all time, Messi would arrive in M.L.S. having received every conceivable honor at the club and international level: league titles in Spain and France; four Champions League trophies with Barcelona; and the Copa América and, last December, the World Cup with Argentina.

His status as the world’s best player made him an extremely valuable property as his contract with his current employer, Paris St.-Germain, ran down. Miami was far from his only option: Messi, 35, eschewed both a putative return to Barcelona and a monumental offer, said to be worth as much as $500 million, to move to Saudi Arabia, which has set out to lure a dozen of the finest players on the planet to the Gulf this summer.

Should the deal be completed, it would be the biggest coup for M.L.S. since it lured Beckham in 2007. That deal shifted perceptions of the league’s quality and ambitions around the world; capturing Messi would, if anything, deliver even more attention to the league in the run-up to the 2026 World Cup.

Messi admitted, in his interview, that Miami had perhaps not been his first choice of destination. Speaking to outlets that dedicate much of their coverage to the club where he became the finest player of his generation, Barcelona, he made plain that in an ideal world, he would have returned to Catalonia. He “obviously really wanted to return,” he said, and had discussed the idea with Xavi Hernández, the club’s manager, and Joan Laporta, its president.

Ultimately, though, Barcelona’s financial turmoil forced his hand. “I heard they had to sell players or lower salaries, and the truth is that I did not want to go through that,” he said, suggesting that he did not want to be held responsible for forcing Barcelona to adjust its squad simply to accommodate him.

“I wanted to make my own decision, thinking about myself and my family,” he said, describing a move away from Europe entirely as a chance to “look for something else, and find a little peace of mind.”

After 20 years as one of the finest players on the planet — if not the finest one — and seven months after leading Argentina to the World Cup, the one trophy that had previously eluded him, he said he wanted to “get out of focus a bit, think about my family.”

That led him to reject the chance to stay in Paris. He never truly settled into an attack featuring his fellow superstars Neymar and Kylian Mbappé, and his expected exit from P.S.G. was finally confirmed by the club on Saturday, hours before the team’s final game of the season.

“I would like to thank the club, the city of Paris and its people for these two years,” he said in a statement released by the club hours before he played, and lost, his final match with P.S.G. “I wish you all the best for the future.”

The club reciprocated by sending its “warmest regards” and thanking Messi for his service, but P.S.G.’s fans were less sentimental: They booed his name in warm-ups, did the same during the game and continued to show their displeasure during a celebration for the club’s latest French championship that followed.

Because he was out of contract, Messi’s options were the talk of soccer. Would he find a way to return to the club that had made him, Barcelona? Would he take his game, and his family, to a new adventure in the United States? Or would his salary demands so limit his options that he would have little choice but to accept the almost unfathomable offer he received from the Saudi club Al Hilal?

Saudi Arabia’s pitch was perhaps the most transactional: It could offer Messi a salary that no other suitor could match, and he already had a relationship with the kingdom through a multimillion-dollar deal in which Messi had become a spokesman for the Saudi Tourism Authority.

“If it had been a question of money, I would have gone to Arabia or somewhere,” Messi said. Instead, though, he insisted his decision had been made for reasons other than the purely economic.

Barcelona, on the other hand, offered familiarity and a return to the club and city he never wanted to leave. Messi departed Catalonia for Paris St.-Germain in 2021 only when Barcelona found itself caught in a financial vise and unable, under the rules of the Spanish league, to sign him to a new contract.

But while the lure of returning to a club that revered him was strong, Messi explained that he did not want to find himself at the mercy of La Liga’s accountants. Though reports had emerged that Barcelona had struck a deal with La Liga to allow the club to complete his signature without breaking the competition’s salary rules, he was not prepared to take that risk.

“The time I had to leave, La Liga had also accepted that the club would sign me, and in the end it couldn’t be done,” he said. “Well, I was afraid the same thing would happen again.” He confirmed that his priority, in making his choice, had been the appeal of “not having to wait again.”

That gave Miami its chance, but — as was the case with previous stars — there was still a need for M.L.S. to get creative. It, too, offered Messi a bit of comfort: He owns at least one home in Miami, and basing himself there — and closer to Argentina — will make it easier for him to cultivate rich, new sponsorship opportunities in a huge commercial market.

But a base in the United States would also have appealed to him for competitive reasons, potentially making it easier for Messi as he prepares to help Argentina defend its World Cup title in 2026, when the tournament will be hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.


Inter Miami, partly owned by David Beckham, left, has not fared well in 2023. The club fired Phil Neville, right, as coach last week as it sat last in the Eastern Conference in M.L.S.Credit…Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

To make the numbers work, Inter Miami owners, which include Beckham, and Messi’s representatives cobbled together a layered offer: a roster spot free from the limits of M.L.S. salary rules; an ownership stake in Inter Miami once his playing careers ends; and revenue-sharing agreements with Apple and Adidas, two companies with which Messi has long and lucrative relationships.

Those deals would be linked to increased sales for Adidas, which had previously signed Messi to a lifetime sponsorship deal, and to increased subscription sales for the Apple TV+ streaming service. Apple, which this year acquired the rights to broadcast M.L.S. games on the service, on Tuesday announced that it also would produce a multipart documentary series about Messi.

Any first look at Messi on the streaming platform in an M.L.S. game, however, will have to wait until the contracts are signed, and until the league reaches its midseason transfer deadline on July 5.

Andrew Das joined The Times in 2006. An assistant editor in Sports, he helps direct coverage of soccer, the Olympics and international sports. @AndrewDasNYT

Rory Smith is The Times’s chief soccer correspondent, based in Britain. He covers all aspects of European soccer and has reported from three World Cups, the Olympics, and numerous European tournaments. @RorySmith


By: Andrew Das and Rory Smith
Title: Lionel Messi, Soccer’s Most Coveted Free Agent, Picks Miami
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Published Date: Wed, 07 Jun 2023 20:41:08 +0000

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