Gabby Douglas

Two years to Rio Olympics: Gymnastics storylines

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The telltale stat in U.S. women’s gymnastics is this: No American has made back-to-back Olympic teams since 1996 and 2000.

Of the five-member 2012 U.S. Olympic champion team, three have not competed since the London Games. One more hasn’t competed in 2014.

Start with Gabby Douglas, the Olympic all-around champion, who has moved from Iowa to Los Angeles back to Iowa and is now living in Ohio. She returned to a National Team camp for the first time since 2012 this spring but last week pushed back her anticipated competitive comeback to 2015.

Jordyn Wieber, the 2011 World all-around champion, is now at UCLA and hasn’t set a return date, if she returns at all. Aly Raisman, the Olympic floor exercise champion, also hasn’t competed since London, but she aims to return to a National Team camp in the fall.

Two years out: Rio’s readiness | Storylines: Swimming | Track and Field | Gymnastics | More Sports

McKayla Maroney bounced back from an Olympic vault silver medal performance to win the 2013 World Championship on the apparatus. She underwent knee surgery in March but said Saturday that she’s more determined than ever to make the 2016 Olympic Team.

Kyla Ross, the youngest member of the Fierce Five, is the only one who has competed through the last two years. She’s the reigning World all-around silver medalist.

Ross was beaten at the 2013 World Championships by Simone Biles, a powerful 4-foot-8 Texan who draws comparisons to 2008 Olympic balance beam champion Shawn Johnson.

Of course, Douglas, Wieber, Maroney and Ross were all juniors two years before the London Olympics. So the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team could be made up entirely of gymnasts we’ve yet to see perform at major international events.

Every member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s team is still active, looking to return for 2016 and make up for that fifth-place finish.

Sam Mikulak is the reigning U.S. all-around champion, while Danell LeyvaJohn Orozco and Jonathan Horton each missed chunks of time the last two years with injuries. Horton, a two-time Olympian, is expected to compete for the first time since London at the P&G Championships in two weeks.

The balance of power in international gymnastics remains the same. The Chinese, Russian and Romanian women are still a threat to the U.S., and they’ll try to prove it at the first World Championships team competition since the Olympics in October.

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura won his fourth straight World Championship in the all-around in 2013 and is in the “greatest of all time” discussion at age 25. Japan, though, has been unable to beat China in a team competition at the Olympics or Worlds since 2004.

Major gymnastics events before Rio 2016:

2014 P&G Championships — Aug. 21-24, Pittsburgh
2014 World Championships — Oct. 3-13, Nanning, China
2015 P&G Championships — Aug. 13-16, 2015, Indianapolis
2015 World Championships — Oct. 23-Nov. 1, 2015, Glasgow, Scotland
2016 P&G Championships
2016 U.S. Olympic Trials

Simone Biles becomes honorary Houston Texans cheerleader

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The NFL’s Houston Texans may not be having the greatest season on the football field, but that hasn’t stopped one famous diehard fan from cheering them on.

On Sunday, Simone Biles took her fandom to the next level by debuting as an honorary Texans cheerleader before the team’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers.

game day feels ❤️ so excited to dance at the Houston Texans Game!

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officially ready for game day now that I got my legendary red boots 🏈

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As an added bonus, she also found time to take a few photos with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-foot center who once starred for the Houston Rockets.

This isn’t the first time that the Olympic gold medalist has teamed up with her hometown Texans. In 2016, Biles had the honor of announcing one of the team’s draft picks, and in 2015, she made this memorable entrance onto the field after a pre-game introduction.

Julia Marino, Jamie Anderson close in on Olympic snowboard team spots after second U.S. qualifier

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Julia Marino is within striking distance of qualifying for her first Olympic team. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is even closer.

Marino, who won four X Games medals in slopestyle and big air competitions last season, unleashed a frontside 720 and her signature cab double underflip to take second place in big air at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, the second of five qualifying events for the U.S. snowboard slopestyle and big air team.

Anderson, who received high marks for her cab 900 but lower scores for her frontside 720, finished off the podium in fourth. Because she and Marino were the only Americans to reach the final at Copper though, Anderson still received a valuable haul of Olympic selection points and maintains the lead in the overall rankings.

Although Marino’s cab double underflip received the highest score of the competition, riders in big air are scored on their two best tricks. That enabled Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi to take the win with a pair of solid jumps that included a backside 1080. Silje Norendal of Norway finished on the podium in third behind Iwabuchi and Marino.

In order to be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboarding team, riders must have a minimum of one podium finish at the selection events. If more than three riders attain podium finishes, then the tiebreaker will come down each rider’s two best results.

Marino and Anderson have both fulfilled the minimum criteria for automatic selection. Either of them could clinch spots on the Olympic team for both slopestyle and big air by finishing as the top U.S. rider at any of the remaining selection events. The next event will be a slopestyle contest next week in Breckenridge, Colo.

Meanwhile, the men’s big air competition had the potential to shake up the U.S. Olympic rankings, as none of the podium finishers from the first selection event reached the final at Copper.

After a disappointing result in that first qualifier, which was held at Mammoth Mountain last winter, Chris Corning bounced back to finish as the top American in this contest and second place overall. He landed a frontside 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1440 on his two jumps, putting his own stylish twist on both tricks with melon grabs.

Corning, the 2015/16 World Cup champion in slopestyle, has emerged as perhaps the U.S. team’s top hope for an Olympic medal this year in both men’s slopestyle and big air, events typically dominated by riders from Canada and Norway. Now that he has his first selection event podium under his belt, he can clinch a spot on the Olympic team by finishing as the top American at any of the remaining contests.

Also earning a podium result with a third-place finish was 19-year-old Chandler Hunt, who has suddenly added his name to the U.S. Olympic discussion.

The victory in men’s big air went to Norway’s Mons Roisland, who stomped a switch backside 1620 and a frontside 1440 tail grab on his jumps.

Three more selection events for the slopestyle and big air team still remain, and all three will be slopestyle events. Dew Tour will host a selection event next week in Breckenridge, then there will be a break until Olympic qualifying resumes in January with competitions at Aspen and Mammoth.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Results

Men’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Mons Roisland (NOR), 182.75
2. Chris Corning (USA), 177.25
3. Chandler Hunt (USA), 159.00
4. Ryan Stassel (USA), 154.50
5. Max Parrot (CAN), 121.50

Women’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Reira Iwabuchi (JPN), 169.25
2. Julia Marino (USA), 160.25
3. Silje Norendal (NOR), 156.75
4. Jamie Anderson (USA), 151.50
5. Sina Candrian (SUI), 135.50

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Red Gerard, 1400*
2. Chris Corning, 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt, 1160*
4. Kyle Mack, 1000*
5. Judd Henkes, 1000

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Jamie Anderson, 1800*
2. Julia Marino, 1600*
3. Hailey Langland, 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson, 1050
5. Nora Healey, 950

*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.