Simone Biles

Simone Biles hangs on for U.S. gymnastics national title over Kyla Ross; McKayla Maroney impresses

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Simone Biles won silver on all four individual events at the U.S. gymnastics championships, but the tiny 16-year-old earned gold in the standings that mattered most.

Biles, of Spring, Texas, took the U.S. all-around crown over Olympian Kyla Ross by two tenths of a point, 120.45 to 120.25, after two days of competition. Biles stumbled on her final routine, uneven bars (14.2), but Ross bobbled on her finale, the balance beam (15.25), to keep the order the same as it was after the opening night Thursday.

Both Biles and Ross appear to be locks, as does Olympian McKayla Maroney, to make the four-woman team for the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, Sept. 30-Oct. 6. The roster will be chosen after a selection camp next month.

Biles won the biggest title, but Maroney and Ross split the individual event gold medals: Ross for uneven bars and balance beam and Maroney for vault and floor exercise, the only events she competed on at the XL Center.

Biles started with complete confidence on the beam Saturday, nailing a routine for a 15 that would increase her lead on Ross to over a point. She put on a performance clinic on floor (14.95) and a clean Amanar on vault (15.8).

Heading into the final rotation the only thing that could cost Biles her first senior national title was a major mistake. Part way through her uneven bars routine she made one. Biles lost her footing during a move on the high bar, ended up in a dead hang and had to take an extra swing, a mistake that nearly obliterated her 1.25-point lead over Ross. Biles handled the error like a veteran, quickly getting back on track and landing a solid dismount to capture the title in dramatic fashion.

“I wasn’t going to let go of that bar,” Biles laughed when asked about what she was thinking when she made the error.

Ross came out swinging on floor (14.5), defiantly landing the tumbling pass that tripped her up in night one. She continued with consistency, turning in nearly flawless vault (15.3) and uneven bars routines (14.95). Ross survived beam, but it wasn’t enough to surpass the dynamic Biles.

Maroney looked like she never took a break for training. She drove home an Amanar vault that delivered an execution score of 9.7, the highest of the entire competition … by a wide margin. She grabbed the floor title from Biles by one tenth.

“I know that I’m not just a one-event wonder.” said Maroney, the world champion and Olympic silver medalist on vault,

The fourth spot on the worlds team is up for grabs.

Brenna Dowell, third in the all-around with 116.55 points, continued to make her case to the selection committee, hitting with consistency and proving she can handle the pressure of big-time competition. Peyton Ernst (115.3) and Maggie Nichols (114.7) rounded out the top five.

Lexie Priessman, the 2012 U.S. junior national champion who withdrew with an Achilles injury before the competition, was added to the national team, but it appears her season is over.

“We don’t want to take risks that could cause more injury,” U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said.

Priessman will see a specialist next week to determine the extent of the injury.

Also added to the national team was Elizabeth Price, the Olympic alternate who bounced back Saturday after a weak opening night. Price competed on just two events, vault and uneven bars. Price could fill a void for the U.S. on uneven bars, but it will be tough for her to make the world team with Ross and Biles’ excellence there.

American Cup champion Katelyn Ohashi, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, did not compete at nationals and was not named to the national team at the conclusion of the competition. However, Ohashi can be placed on the national team at a training camp, but it also appears she will not be in contention for the World Championships team.

1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 120.450
2. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 120.250
3. Brenna Dowell, Odessa, Mo., 116.550
4. Peyton Ernst, Coppell, Texas, 115.300
5. Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn., 114.700

1. McKayla Maroney, Long Beach, Calif., 31.200
2. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 30.875
3. Mykayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz., 29.600

Uneven bars
1. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 30.950
2. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 28.950
3. Brenna Dowell, Odessa, Mo., 28.850
4. Peyton Ernst, Coppell, Texas, 28.450
5. Ariana Guerra, League City, Texas, 28.350

Balance beam
1. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 29.950
2. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 29.900
3. Kennedy Baker, Flower Mound, Texas, 28.950
4. Peyton Ernst, Coppell, Texas, 28.600
5. Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn., 28.500

Floor exercise
1. McKayla Maroney, Long Beach, Calif., 30.100
2. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 30.000
3. Mykayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz., 29.750
4. Madison Desch, Lenexa, Kan., 29.300
5. Brenna Dowell, Odessa, Mo., 29.000

National team
Kennedy Baker, Flower Mound, Texas/Texas Dreams
Simone Biles, Spring, Texas/Bannon’s Gymnastix
Brenna Dowell, Odessa, Mo./GAGE
Peyton Ernst, Coppell, Texas/Texas Dreams
Madison Kocian, Dallas/WOGA
McKayla Maroney, Long Beach, Calif./All-Olympia
Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn./Twin City Twisters
Elizabeth Price, Coopersburg, Pa./Parkettes
Lexie Priessman, Cincinnati, Ohio/Cincinnati Gymnastics
Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif./Gym-Max
MyKayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz./Desert Lights

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IAAF clears Paula Radcliffe, defends its blood testing program

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(AP) — The IAAF cleared marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe of doping allegations on Friday and rejected claims that it failed to act on hundreds of suspicious blood tests, saying the accusations lacked “any scientific or legal basis.”

Track and field’s governing body issued a 38-page response to allegations by British and German media outlets that it had ignored and tolerated rampant blood doping in the sport.

“The IAAF is not complacent about doping in its sport,” the federation said. “It will continue to use every tool at its disposal to fight doping and protect clean athletes.”

The statement was released a few days before IAAF President Sebastian Coe faces a British parliamentary hearing into the doping allegations made by The Sunday Times newspaper and German broadcaster ARD.

Already reeling from revelations of government-backed doping in Russia and criminal corruption charges against former president Lamine Diack, the International Association of Athletics Federations said it had a duty to set the record straight on the blood doping issue.

“The IAAF cannot sit idly by while public confidence in its willingness to protect the integrity of its sport is undermined by allegations of inaction/incompetence that are based on bad scientific and legal argument,” it said.

The IAAF singled out the case of Radcliffe, saying the three-time London Marathon winner was publicly accused of doping “based on the gross misinterpretation of raw and incomplete data.”

Elevated blood value readings in some of Radcliffe’s tests had “clearly plausible” explanations that were “entirely innocent,” the IAAF said.

“Any competent scientist would immediately conclude that they should be disregarded,” the statement added.

The IAAF said it followed up by testing Radcliffe’s urine and blood samples for EPO and blood transfusions, and all the results came back negative.

“Obviously there’s been damage done to my reputation, and to the reputation of the sport, and that’s why I took the stand I did against this,” Radcliffe said Friday after the release of the IAAF statement. “Yes, it was only me being singled out but there are a lot of other innocent, clean athletes who have or may produce an atypical value at some point.

“That’s precisely why it has to be kept so confidential until an expert that’s properly qualified looks at it and assesses it.”

Britain’s national anti-doping agency said it also reviewed Radcliffe’s test results and agreed there was no case against her.

“The data does not provide any evidence that any anti-doping rule violation proceedings should be brought,” the UK Anti-Doping Agency said.

Radcliffe, who retired from competition this year, was publicly implicated during a British Parliamentary hearing in August into the doping allegations leveled by the British and German media.

She acknowledged that her blood-testing data may have shown “fluctuations” but insisted there were no “abnormalities” and experts had concluded she had done nothing wrong.

Radcliffe set the world record when she ran 2 hours, 15 minutes, 25 seconds in winning the 2003 London Marathon. She also won the New York Marathon three times (2004, `07 and `08) and the Chicago Marathon in 2002. Radcliffe competed in four Olympics but never won a medal.

The Sunday Times and ARD examined the results of 12,000 blood tests involving 5,000 athletes from a leaked IAAF database covering 2001 to 2012 and concluded there was evidence of widespread cheating.

The reports said that 146 medals — including 55 golds — in disciplines ranging from the 800 meters to the marathon at the Olympics and world championships were won by athletes who have recorded suspicious tests. The Sunday Times also claimed the London Marathon was won seven times over a 12-year period by athletes who recorded suspicious tests.

The IAAF said Friday that its biological passport program — which monitors athletes’ blood profiles over time for evidence of doping — began in 2009 and that all screenings done before then could not be used as proof of doping.

“No charge could ever be brought based on the pre-2009 tests,” the statement said.

The IAAF said it would respond separately to allegations made in a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission this month that IAAF officials swept aside up to eight blood doping cases in 2012, allowing athletes to compete at the London Olympics when they should have been suspended.

MORE: Russia vows to follow all WADA recommendations on doping

Crashes for Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn in Aspen grand slalom

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The American women finished off the podium in today’s grand slalom race in Aspen, Colorado after both Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin suffered crashes.

20-year-old Shiffrin was leading after the first run by 0.11 seconds. If she’d maintained her lead through the second run, she would have become the first American woman since Tamara McKinney in 1981 to win the World Cup race in Aspen.

Shiffrin was also hoping she’d win her first World Cup race on American soil today; all 15 of her World Cup victories have been in Europe.

She was optimistic heading into the second run, telling the Denver Post, “I felt really solid. I was attacking, I was really attacking like crazy. That was a really good thing for me to do in a GS course.”

Unfortunately Shiffrin was in sight of the finish line with just two gates to go when she lost an edge and crashed.

The winner was Lara Gut of Switzerland, followed by Eva-Maria Brem of Austria and Federica Brignone of Italy.

Vonn took herself out of podium contention in the first run when she lost her left ski while making a hard right turn. Vonn, who broke her ankle in training three months ago, was not hurt and called the error “super annoying,” the AP reported. “It’s never happened to me in a race before. To have it happen in Aspen is definitely disappointing.”

Vonn will next race two downhills and a super-G in Lake Louise, where she’s claimed fifteen career victories. Shiffrin will race two slalom races in Aspen on Saturday and Sunday.

Watch Vonn’s first run here:

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