Should Ironmen (and women) become Olympians?

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On Saturday, 84 professional athletes and a couple thousand age groupers will push their bodies to the limit at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. Some say it’s the ultimate test – a 2.4-mile ocean swim, a 112-mile bike ride along the windy Hawaiian coast and then a 26.2-mile run in the heat.

The top athletes will finish in less then nine hours; some of the amateurs in the field will take 18 hours. Some won’t finish at all.

There are Ironman and Iron-distance races throughout the year, but Kona is the big one. It’s where the best male and female triathletes in the world are named each October.

So here’s a thought: Why not add an Ironman triathlon event to the Olympics? There’s already an Olympic distance triathlon, which consists of a 1500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run. The next logical step might be to add a half-Ironman, but we’d like to skip over that one and move to the big kahuna.

Five reasons why we think Ironman should be in the Olympics:

– We’re pretty sure it would be the longest one-day event at the Olympics (ahead of the road cycling race)
– Spectators can watch it for free
– It would provide these athletes a bigger stage than Ironman Kona
– With 34 sports, the summer Olympics need another sport
– If golf gets in, why not Ironman?

Golf has an established schedule of tournaments and majors throughout the year. Ironman does too. The IOC added golf to the Olympics starting with the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

At any rate, you can watch Saturday’s race live on UniversalSports.com starting at 11:30 a.m. ET or catch NBC’s coverage on Oct. 27.

Ragan Smith delivers in first U.S. championship title win

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ragan Smith embraced the role of heavy favorite coming into the U.S. gymnastics championships.

Thrust into the spotlight for the first time in her career, the 17-year-old hardly appeared intimidated by the stage. Smith pulled away from the field to claim her first national title Sunday, posting a score of 115.250, more than three points clear of Jordan Chiles in second place and Riley McCusker in third.

Smith opened up a 1.3-point lead over McCusker in the opening round Friday but admitted afterward she wasn’t particularly impressed by her own performance. She was considerably sharper less than 48 hours later, her 57.850 total in the finals was the best in the 16-woman all-around field by nearly two points.

Smith is one of the few holdovers from the 2016 Olympic cycle, serving as an alternate for the “Final Five” team that won half of the available medals in Rio de Janeiro last fall. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez are taking breaks or have moved on, leaving Smith as the standard bearer for new national team coordinator Valeri Liukin.

The program appears to be in solid hands. Smith ditched “The Addams Family” themed floor routine she used last year for something a little more mature. It’s not the only part of her gymnastics that has grown up. Smith finished first on floor and beam and tied for third on bars.

Smith will be in the mix for the all-around title at the world championships in Montreal, where she’ll have a chance to extend the U.S.’s dominance. An American woman has won the world or Olympic title each of the last six years. Barring injury, Smith should be right there.

Liukin said he wasn’t alarmed following an uneven performance by the field in preliminaries, calling it a positive step for a group lacking in experience. The gymnastics were markedly improved in the finals.

Chiles slipped by McCusker into second thanks to a fabulous save on beam in which she turned a near disaster into something decidedly artful.

Chiles was in the middle of “wolf turn” (basically spinning on one foot while in a crouch on a 4-inch wide piece of wood) when she nearly fell over. Instead she rose to her feet, kept rotating, and went right into the next part of her routine as if it was planned all along.

Chiles’ steadiness gives Liukin another option as he tries to put together the rest of the four-woman team that will join Smith in Montreal. McCusker, only recently recovered from foot and wrist injuries, tried to keep the heat on Smith but stepped out of bounds following the last tumbling pass on her floor routine. McCusker finished first on bars — her legs practically magnetized together as she went from bar to bar — to win the event with ease.

Ashton Locklear, like Smith an alternate last summer, wound up second on bars with a watered down routine as he makes her way back from her own injury issues and should have time to install upgrades before Montreal.

Whoever heads to Canada in October will go with the usual expectations for what has become the sport’s most dominant program.

MORE: Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles has competed in the six previous U.S. National Championships, winning the last four, but in Anaheim this year, she’s watching from the sidelines. Biles won four gold medals (team, all-around, vault and floor) and one bronze (on beam) last summer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

This week she revealed she has returned to the gym to prepare for a yet to be determined event, in her return to competition.

When asked how she’s been doing in the gym by NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce, Biles responded with her signature smile accompanied by an endearingly bashful eye roll, “the beginning is…OK.”

MORE: Danell Leyva on why he’s retiring

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