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.

All-around
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

Vault
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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Karen Chen breaks U.S. Champs scoring record; Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold trail

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KANSAS CITY — A skater broke the U.S. Championships women’s short program scoring record Thursday night, but it wasn’t Ashley Wagner or Gracie Gold.

Karen Chen, a 17-year-old former junior star who struggled the last two years, tallied 72.82 points at the Sprint Center to lead going into Saturday’s free skate (8 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, is second, .87 of a point behind.

That leaves Wagner and Gold, who combined to win the last five U.S. titles, in third and fifth, respectively.

This is concerning for Wagner (1.88 behind Chen) and Gold (7.97 behind) given U.S. Figure Skating can send three women to worlds in two months. That selection will be made this weekend, primarily — but not totally — based off U.S. Championships results.

Tessa Hong is in fourth place, but at 14 years old is too young for senior worlds.

Full results are here.

Though Wagner and Gold are usually higher placed, the biggest surprise was Chen.

“My body’s still trembling right now,” she said, two hours after her performance.

Chen skated a clean program Thursday, rare for her in the last couple of seasons. Chen burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old two years ago, finishing third at nationals behind Wagner and Gold.

She was too young to be selected for the 2015 Worlds team. Little has been heard from Chen since.

She dropped to eighth at the 2016 U.S. Championships and came into Kansas City as the seventh-ranked U.S. woman this season. Struggling to find comfortable boots — a common skater problem — has plagued her. She went through 14 pairs in a four-month stretch.

“Everyone has doubts, and I certainly do as well,” said Chen, who choreographed her short program. “But I just kept pushing and telling myself that I’m gaining more experience, I’m learning about everything in the process and I’m just going to keep getting better.”

Wagner bounced back from her last outing — her worst Grand Prix finish in 25 career starts — with a decent program. She needed to save a double Axel near the end of her short. The 2016 World silver medalist was the pre-event favorite.

“People do not understand how difficult of a position I am in,” said Wagner, a 25-year-old bidding to become the oldest U.S. women’s champion in 90 years. “It might seem like I’m on top of the world, or second from being top of the world, but this is a very tough position to be in. It’s mentally been weighing on my shoulders all season. To be able to come out and show people I am a fighter, I’m really proud of that.”

Gold needed to show a fighting spirit given her well-publicized disaster of a fall season. And she did. Her only miss in the short program was doubling a planned triple flip.

“I can feel a huge improvement as a skater. I think everyone can see it,” Gold said. “I have made comebacks before. This doesn’t feel like a major comeback in some ways, because I felt pretty solid. … A long program is worth a lot of points, and I can certainly deliver some good long programs. I kind of feel like I’m due for a good one.”

If Gold doesn’t improve in the free skate, she could be left off the worlds team for the first time in her senior career. However, Gold believes her strong credentials in recent seasons merit consideration.

“We’ve seen different controversies where people aren’t on the [nationals] podium, and they’re still selected for events,” Gold said. “Michelle Kwan has not gone to nationals and been selected for an Olympic team [in 2006]. I believe that I deserve to be on the world team, but I’m not on the selection committee. Of course, every athlete feels like they should be on the world team.”

Earlier Thursday, the pairs short program produced surprise leaders.

The U.S. Championships continue Friday with the short dance and men’s short program. A full broadcast schedule is here.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss wants Russia out of PyeongChang

Women’s Short Program
1. Karen Chen — 72.82
2. Mirai Nagasu — 71.95
3. Ashley Wagner — 70.94
4. Tessa Hong — 65.02
5. Gracie Gold — 64.85

 

Gwen Jorgensen pregnant, to sit out 2017 triathlon season

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 20: USA's Gwen Jorgensen followed by Switzerland's Nicola Spirig Hug (L) compete in the running portion of the women's triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.(Photo by Jeff Pachoud-Pool/Getty Images)
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Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen is pregnant and will not compete this year.

“Just kind of take this year a little bit easier,” Jorgensen said in a video posted on Facebook on Thursday.

The baby is due Aug. 3, according to Jorgensen’s social media.

Jorgensen, 30, became the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion in Rio after going in as the heavy favorite. She has said for months that she planned to take time off to have a baby before returning to defend her Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

Swiss Nicola Spirig, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist and 2016 silver medalist, is reportedly expecting a child in May.

In Jorgensen and Spirig’s absences, the top triathletes going into the season are defending world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda, U.S. Olympians Katie Zaferes and Sarah True and Britons Vicky Holland and Helen Jenkins.

Jorgensen’s last competition was the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, when she finished 14th in her first running race longer than 10 miles.

The World Triathlon Series kicks off in Abu Dhabi the first weekend of March.

MORE: Triathlon federation boss wants Olympic races shortened