Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice retires from swimming via video

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Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice chose a unique way to retire, announcing the end of her career via video spliced with childhood photos, career highlights and portions of the 2012 pop rock hit “Hall of Fame” by The Script featuring will.i.am.

Rice had not swum competitively since the 2012 Olympics.

“I never wanted to make a comeback, so the decision that I wanted to make was definitely final,” Rice said in the video published Tuesday. “Coming to that point today and not continuing my swimming career, it’s sad.”

Rice, 25, won triple gold at the 2008 Olympics, sweeping the individual medleys and as part of the Australian 4x200m freestyle relay team, all in world record times.

“A complete shock and the best moment I could have ever experienced,” Rice said. “It would have been really easy to walk away after Beijing and call it a day there. But I just felt like I had so much more to prove as an athlete. Had I known what I was going to go through [between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics] with three shoulder operations and a load more ups and downs, I probably would have [retired], but I’m so glad that I really stuck through it.”

Rice finished fourth in the 200m individual medley and tied for sixth in the 400m individual medley at the 2012 Olympics. The shoulder injuries hampered her form leading into her second Olympics.

“London was really tough,” Rice said. “There were so many things that went wrong for me in that preparation. It was like I was trying so hard to make everything so perfect, and everything went wrong.”

She said in 2011 that she would likely retire after the London Games but took her time to officially call it a career.

After nearly a year off, she gave herself a deadline of late 2013/early 2014 to get back in the water to contend for a spot on Australia’s Commonwealth Games team later this summer. The Australian trials for the Commonwealth Games concluded over the weekend. She did not participate.

“Coming off the Games, I really didn’t want to make a rash decision on my career and whether I was going to keep swimming or not, because I was still too emotional about the whole preparation I had just been through,” said Rice, who had roles on Australia’s “Today” Show and “Celebrity Apprentice” during her break. “I felt a lot of pressure to live up to everyone’s expectations and fulfill their answers, but I knew that I really had to take the time for myself to get to the point where I knew 100 percent what I wanted to do.”

Rice’s expected retirement came on the same day that nine-time Olympic medalist Ian Thorpe‘s agent said he thought Thorpe would never swim competitively again.

Rice and Thorpe were two pillars of Australian swimming during the height of their rivalry with the U.S. over the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Thorpe was the most decorated Australian men’s swimmer in 2000 and 2004. Rice won more golds than any other Australian women’s swimmer in 2008.

“I definitely feel like I’m losing a part of myself, but I’m really excited for what’s to come,” Rice said. “It’s safe to say that that’s the new goal, a new passion for me is to prove myself out of the water.”

Catching up with Dara Torres

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