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2017 Artistic World Championships in Montreal

MONTREAL, October 5, 2017 - By a mere thousandth of a point, Japan's Mai Murakami leads the women's field after qualifications, heading up a pack of contenders to succeed Simone Biles, the All-around queen at the past three World Championships, who is taking a break following triumph at the Rio Olympic Games.

A parade of contenders
In a preliminary round that lacked for flawless All-around performances, Murakami was one of the few competitors not to make a major mistake on any of the four apparatus Wednesday. Her best performances of the day came on Balance Beam and Floor Exercise, the events where she will get another chance to medal during apparatus finals.

The road was bumpier for U.S. champion Ragan Smith, who briefly lost her rhythm on Uneven Bars and her balance on Beam before finishing strong with the best score on Floor Exercise, leaving her a toepoint behind Murakami overall. Elsabeth Black, currently third, carries with her the hopes of the Canadian team.

Behind the top three, who are separated by only three tenths of a point, are two other newcomers: Melanie de Jesus dos Santos of France and Elena Eremina of Russia.

The champions in finals....
Maria Paseka, the reigning World titleholder and Olympic silver medallist on Vault, finished atop the Vault rankings in qualification. The Russian will perform in Saturday's final alongside Rio bronze medallist Giulia Steingruber, as well as the doyenne of the World Championships, Oksana Chusovitina (UZB), who at 42 once again earned a ticket to the final on her best event.

China's Fan Yilin will also get an opportunity to defend her World title on Uneven Bars, though Russians Eremina and Anastasia Iliankova dominated the qualification.

...and those who are leaving early
The Netherlands's Sanne Wevers, who made a sensation in Rio by clinching the Olympic title on Balance Beam, created surprise by making an early exit from Worlds. Germany's Tabea Alt earned the highest score on Balance Beam, thanks to her superior difficulty score. Romania's Catalina Ponor, a three-time Olympic gold medallist from 2004, did not fare any better than Wevers.

Amy Tinkler did not qualify among the top eight on Floor, the event that earned her bronze in Rio, but the young Brit will return for Friday's All-around final.

The shattered dream of Larisa Iordache
Romania's Larisa Iordache sustained an Achilles tendon injury as she was warming up on Floor Exercise, dashing the two-time World All-around medallist's (silver 2014 and bronze 2015) hopes even before she had performed a routine. Iordache, who claimed the All-around title at the Summer Universiade in August, was the only All-around medallist from the 2015 World Championships competing in Montreal.
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