Kerri Walsh Jennings

ESPN Body Issue photos of Olympians published

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Images from this year’s ESPN the Magazine Body Issue are out, and, again, it features a slew of Olympians.

Beach volleyball star Kerri Walsh Jennings, snowboarder Elena Hight, boxer Marlen Esparza, soccer player Sydney Leroux, basketball player Swin Cash and tennis players Agnieszka Radwanska and John Isner were among the athletes featured in the fifth edition that comes out Friday.

Of the Olympians, Walsh Jennings garnered the most publicity for her shots before and after giving birth to her third baby, daughter Scout, in April. Her post-baby photos came nine weeks after Scout was born, according to People magazine.

“Driving there I was sweating bullets,” said Walsh Jennings, 34, a three-time Olympic champion, to People. “I was really, really nervous. I felt exposed, not just physically, but with all of my insecurities.

“When I was offered this opportunity it wasn’t an automatic yes. I had to think about it. I’m my parents’ daughter. I have my husband,” she said. “When I came down to it, I had the opportunity to do something uncomfortable. I think that’s an important part of life. It’s something new. I looked at it as a challenge.”

Hight, 23, was sixth in the 2006 Olympic halfpipe and 10th in 2010. She’ll battle Olympic champions Kelly Clark and Hannah Teter, Olympic silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler and world champion Arielle Gold for one of a maximum four spots on the 2014 Olympic team.

“Your body is all you have in this lifetime, so taking care of it and honoring it is a huge part of my life,” Hight said in a caption under a photo of her grilling wearing only snow boots. “As an athlete you ask so much of your body all the time, so what you do to get that response is important.”

Esparza, 23, won bronze in the flyweight division at the London Olympics, the first Games including women’s boxing.

“Girls want breast implants or butt implants so they can look like Kim Kardashian, and I’m against that,” Esparza told ESPN. “We should let girls feel pretty no matter what they look like. But I like that I have long legs. I have a nice, toned back. My stomach is flat. But nothing’s my favorite. I think all-around, I’m average.”

Body Issue photos: Kerri Walsh Jennings | Elena Hight | Marlen Esparza | Sydney Leroux | Swin Cash

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Ragan Smith, after watching in Rio, leads P&G Championships

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Ragan Smith could do nothing more than watch in Rio as the Final Five dominated. The roles reversed at the P&G Championships on Friday night.

Smith, a Rio Olympic alternate, easily topped the all-around standings on the first of two nights of competition that will determine national champions.

Oh, and Simone Biles and Laurie Hernandez were among those in the Honda Center crowd in Anaheim.

It’s the beginning of a new era for U.S. women’s gymnastics. None of the Rio Olympians are competing this weekend, but all five could come back for a Tokyo 2020 run.

For now, the spotlight is on Smith.

“It’s kind of nice, like, having a new generation coming up,” Smith, who is coached by 1992 Olympic bronze medalist Kim Zmeskal Burdette, said on NBCSN. “I think it’s a little less pressure, but I still kind of feel like it’s the same because I had no idea what was going to happen last year.”

The 17-year-old Texan leads by 1.3 points over Riley McCusker going into the final day Sunday (7 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app). Full scores are here. A four-woman team for October’s world championships will be named after a camp later this summer.

Smith overcame minor flaws on her first routine — uneven bars — and more significant ones on her next — balance beam. A solid floor exercise and vault gave her a first-day lead six tenths shy of Biles’ average margin from 2013 through 2016.

The second- and third-highest scores Friday actually came from the earlier junior division. With no team event at this year’s worlds, senior depth is less necessary.

Smith, after just missing the Rio Olympic team in her first year as a senior gymnast, won the AT&T American Cup on March 4 despite a beam fall. That made her the favorite this week.

The rest of the field — with no Olympians for the first time since 2008 — could not keep pace Friday. Smith’s top challengers coming in were McCusker and Morgan Hurd.

McCusker, who shares a coach with Hernandez, reeled back some difficulty. She was on crutches with a cast on her wrist in early July.

Hurd, a first-year senior who competes in glasses, took two out-of-bounds steps and sat down on back-to-back floor exercise passes.

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Simone Biles says she’s back in the gym (video)

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Simone Biles is back in the gym.

In between giggles, Biles said she returned to the gym two weeks ago in an NBCSN interview at the P&G Championships in Anaheim on Friday night.

“I actually started, like, two Fridays ago,” Biles said. “I’m weak. But I’m coming back. I’m just doing conditioning and basics right now.”

Biles last competed at the Rio Olympics, winning five medals, including four golds, for the greatest single-Games medal haul by a female gymnast in nearly three decades. That came after Biles swept every U.S. and world all-around title in that four-year Olympic cycle.

The 20-year-old said late last year and early this year that she planned to return to training in late 2017 or early 2018 with an eye on Tokyo 2020.

“It’s OK to sit out one [year],” Biles said. “I can’t imagine being out on the floor now.”

Biles has not set a return to competition. Her longtime coach, Aimee Boorman, moved from Texas to Florida after Rio.

If Biles makes the Tokyo 2020 team, she can attempt to become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion since the late Czech Věra Čáslavská in 1964 and 1968.

Gabby Douglas attempted this feat in Rio but did not qualify for the all-around final.

Douglas said earlier this month that she has not decided whether she will return to competition.

Aly Raisman said in September that she plans to return to training after taking 2017 off. Laurie Hernandez said she hopes to go for 2020 but has not set a return to training.

Madison Kocian is the lone member of the Olympic team who has competed since Rio, but it wasn’t on the elite stage. The Texan did a full freshman season for UCLA with a torn labrum and partially torn rotator cuff in her shoulder.

Kocian said in June that she has not decided if she will return to elite gymnastics.

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P&G CHAMPS: Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview
TV Schedule | Final Five Updates