Simone Biles

Five things we learned from U.S. gymnastics National Championships

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Overarching storylines now that the U.S. gymnastics championships are over …

1. The women’s team doesn’t have legitimate replacements for the Fierce Five yet.

Good news for any 2012 Olympians looking to get back into the mix … Team USA still needs you. McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross put on a show at nationals, claiming all of the event gold medals (Ross: balance beam, uneven bars; Maroney: vault, floor exercise).

The only newcomer who set herself apart was all-around champion Simone Biles. With only a handful of juniors from this year’s competition moving to the senior ranks in 2014, there’s plenty of room, and plenty of need for the Fierce Five to return. Judging by this weekend’s performances — the USA could really use a Gabby Douglas uneven bars routine right about now.

2. The American men have some serious depth.

The U.S. men are finally getting a break after cycles of rebuilding after Olympics. The combination of a young Olympic team in 2012 and a great mix of specialists provides a luxury of depth for the first time in many years. In the past the men’s team has leaned heavily on one or two stars (Paul and Morgan Hamm, Blaine Wilson), but the World Championships team this year could be entirely made of men with Olympic and/or worlds experience.

It’s so deep that the 2012 U.S. all-around champion, John Orozco, didn’t make the World Championships team outright; he’s an alternate who could replace the injured Danell Leyva. Things are looking up for a program that has much to prove after their poor showing in London.

3. USA Gymnastics delivered big time for their audience.

USA Gymnastics gets a round of applause for their digital and social media efforts, especially by former University of Michigan gymnast Scott Bregman, who has changed the game for the 50-year-old institution. Up until last year there were few options to see junior portions of competitions, or even day one preliminary competitions for the sport’s most die-hard fans.

USA Gymnastics live streamed all major events this season. They also live streamed podium training, previously only open to the media, and added athlete interviews and vintage full broadcasts of domestic competitions dating to 1980. USA Gymnastics uploaded a staggering 1,200 videos from the weekend’s National Championships, totaling more than 72 hours of coverage. Their YouTube views totaled nearly 1.4 million during the five-day competition. The most watched video? Maroney’s night two vault.

4. Reputation still counts.

Gymnastics remains, in part, a subjective sport. In past decades and even under today’s revised scoring system, gymnasts have relied on reputation to get the benefit of the doubt, whether it’s from the team selection committee or from the judges.

Maroney has set the precedent of near perfect scores on vault. While she was great at nationals, the judges awarded a 9.7 execution score for a vault that was clearly inferior to her Olympic team final stunner that earned a similar 9.733. The good news? If she sticks the Amanar at the World Championships, we could see the first perfect 10.0 at a worlds under the new scoring system.

5. Mykayla Skinner to Worlds?

Three of four women’s spots on the World Championships team are already locked up: Biles, Maroney and Ross. There’s only one spot left and no standout specialists to fill it. Martha Karolyi has thrown surprises in the past, so don’t count out Mykayla Skinner.

Skinner, 16, lacks the polish of her teammates, but she boasts some of the most mind-blowing gymnastics out there, including a double twisting double layout on floor that if performed at the World Championships would bare her name in the Code of Points. She didn’t hit in night one, but she stuck the double twisting double cold Saturday, finishing third on the event behind Maroney and Biles. She can further her cause at the selection camp next month.

Bonus: Bats love gymnastics, too

During the first night of men’s competition a large bat frantically flew around the heads of the audience and commentators in the XL Center (video here). Nastia Liukin muted her mic a few times during the broadcast out of fear of the shrieking as the winged mammal flew by. The bat even got it’s own Twitter account (@PGChampsBat). The arena said it died of “natural causes” before the next day.

Leyva pulls out of worlds; Orozco could replace him

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Olympic marathon trials — 1 p.m. ET

Meb Keflezighi
AP
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The first six members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic track and field team will be determined on the streets of Los Angeles, live on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday.

At the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, the top three finishers in each of the men’s and women’s races will qualify for the Rio Olympics.

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials — 1-4 p.m. ET

The men’s race (1:06 p.m. ET) includes 2012 Olympic trials winner Meb Keflezighi hoping to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner ever, Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp in his 26.2-mile debut and three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, who was fourth at the 2012 trials in Houston.

The women’s race (1:22 p.m. ET) includes all three 2012 Olympic marathon team members — Shalane FlanaganDesi Linden and Kara Goucher. Plus, Amy Cragg, who was fourth at trials four years ago.

Tom Hammond hosts coverage, joined by Craig Masback, Tim Hutchings, Lewis Johnson and Carrie Tollefson.

Olympic Marathon Trials Previews: Men | Women

Shani Davis out of the medals at World Championships for first time

Shani Davis
AP
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Shani Davis finished fifth in his two best events, missing the podium at the World Single Distance Championships for the first time in his career.

Davis, a two-time Olympic 1000m champion and two-time 1500m silver medalist, finished 2.36 seconds behind Russian winner Denis Yuskov in the 1500m on Friday in Kolomna, Russia.

On Saturday, Davis was .68 behind Russian winner Pavel Kulizhnikov in the 1000m. Full competition results are here.

Davis, 33, is the world-record holder in both events and won a surprise World 1000m title last season, after contemplating retirement during a campaign in which he had one World Cup podium finish (a third place).

He is older than any previous World Championships men’s medalist in a distance shorter than 5000m, according to SchaatsStatistieken.nl.

“I’m not a middle-type-of-the-pack skater,” Davis said last year. “If I’m not competitive with the rest of the world, and I’m sixth and seventh and eighth, whatever, then it’s not for me. I can happily move on.”

This season, Davis also has one World Cup podium finish (a third place from Nov. 20).

He struggled at the Sochi Olympics, taking eighth in the 1000m and 11th in the 1500m as part of an overall disappointing performance by U.S. speed skaters.

Later Saturday, Brittany Bowe earned her second Worlds medal in as many days, silver in the 500m behind South Korean Lee Sang-hwa, the two-time Olympic champion and world-record holder. U.S. Olympian Heather Richardson-Bergsma was fifth.

Richardson-Bergsma and Bowe were first and second in the 500m at Worlds last year and second and third in the 1000m on Friday.

Earlier Saturday, Sven Kramer captured his 19th career World Single Distance Championships gold medal and second in as many days.

The Dutchman won his ninth Olympic or World title in the 5000m. Kramer hasn’t been beaten in that race at an Olympics or Worlds since Chad Hedrick topped him at the 2006 Olympics.

MORE: Two years to Pyeongchang: Updates on Sochi Olympic medalists