Preview: Shani Davis goes for more glory in speed skating

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All races can be seen live online. TV listings can be found here.

EVENT SCHEDULE

Feb. 8 – Men’s 5,000m – 6:30 a.m. ET

Feb. 9 – Women’s 3,000m – 6:30 a.m. ET

Feb. 10 – Men’s 500m race 1 and 2 begin at 8 a.m. ET

Feb. 11 – Women’s 500m race 1 and 2 begin at 7:45 a.m. ET

Feb. 12 – Men’s 1,000m medal event – 9 a.m. ET

Feb. 13 – Women’s 1,000m medal event – 9 a.m. ET

Feb. 15 – Men’s 1,500m medal event – 8:30 a.m. ET

Feb. 16 – Women’s 1,500m medal event – 9 a.m. ET

Feb. 18 – Men’s 10,000m medal event – 8 a.m. ET

Feb. 19 – Women’s 5,000m medal event – 8:30 a.m. ET

Feb. 21 – Men’s team pursuit – 8:30 a.m. ET

Feb. 22 – Women’s team pursuit – 8:30 a.m. ET

MORE: Speed skating breakdown event-by-event

U.S. OUTLOOK

While Shani Davis doesn’t seem ready to say that this will be his last Olympics performance at 31, the possibility is there. He’s already considered one of the greatest winter performers ever, but he could cement his legacy even further as he shoots for a big gold haul. In addition to shooting for individual medals, Davis will also participate in the team pursuit in a rare turn.

Davis would be the first U.S. Winter Olympics performer to win three straight gold medals in the same event if he takes 1000m gold again. The 1,500m might mean just as much to the icon, too, as he’s been limited to silver medals in the past.

MORE: Shani Davis eyes history

It’s not just about Davis for America.

The United States hopes to match its record eight medals from 2002, as Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe could very well battle each other for medals (and benefit the U.S. program in the process). The women’s team hasn’t won a medal since 2002, yet Richardson and Bowe seem like they have a strong chance to change that, possibly in a memorable way.

MORE: U.S. speed skating hopes for a big medal haul

INTERNATIONAL OUTLOOK

There will be plenty of competition from the rest of the world, however.

Mo Tae-Bum hopes to defend his surprise gold from Vancouver in the 500m and ranks among the top contenders to foil Davis’ bid at a 1000m hat trick. Denis Yuskov figures to make it difficult for Davis to get that long-desired gold in the 1500m (aka what Davis calls “the race of kings.”) Sven Kramer hopes to add to his own legend in the 5,000m and 10,000m events while also aiding the Netherlands in the team pursuit. His countryman Bob de Jong cannot be ignored, either.

MORE: Joji Kato and Keiichiro Nagashima seek gold medals this time

Lee Sang-Hwa could very well dominate the women’s 500m. Ireen Wüst is a multiple-medal threat after getting gold (3000m) and bronze (1500m) in 2006 and another gold in the 1500m in Vancouver. Martina Sablikova is another speed skater who could be a threat in more than one event.

MORE: The icy details about sports in the Olympics

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

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