Simone Biles

Simone Biles a tall favorite at P&G Championships; women’s preview

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PITTSBURGH — Simone Biles flinched and froze at a startling sight before walking out of Pittsburgh International Airport on Monday.

“Yeah, you’re on the wall,” Biles’ coach, Aimee Boorman, said about a large sign promoting the P&G Championships. “And you’re 30 feet tall in the arena.”

The real Biles’ feet don’t touch the floor in sitdown interviews, but everything about the Texan is bigger in and around the site of the P&G Championships.

Look up, and she’s a banner above a bridge crossing one of the three rivers. Look down, and she’s sidewalk art directing downtown foot traffic to the Consol Energy Center for the meet. The women’s competition at the P&G Championships starts Thursday and wraps Saturday (8 p.m. ET, live on NBC).

“It’s really weird seeing my face everywhere,” Biles said.

She said she isn’t immune to nerves, but Biles feels the same as last year in Hartford, where she entered P&Gs as a relative unknown and won the all-around title.

Biles, who is printed on room keys at one downtown hotel, is favored to successfully defend her crown. (Biles’ family, which is not staying at that hotel, made sure to take a key as a souvenir.)

“I find it a little weird,” Boorman said, “because she’s just Simone. She’s not a star at home.”

Biles stopped again walking into the arena Monday. Fans were waiting for her outside the athlete entrance. One gave her a card.

“It freaks her out,” Boorman said, “because she’s very humble.”

And very accomplished.

The home-schooled Biles became the third American woman to win four medals at a single World Championships last October, including the most coveted, all-around gold. She’s been compared to Shawn Johnson for her powerful, athletic skills and strengths on floor exercise, balance beam and vault.

Biles bought a belly ring and lost her braces after Worlds, went back to driving her little sister to school and returned to competition at the Secret Classic on Aug. 2 and ran away with the all-around title.

That cemented her ultra-favorite status for Pittsburgh, though she modestly said her goal this week is top three in the all-around. Perhaps only 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross, often Biles’ roommate at camps and competitions, could challenge her this week.

If Biles makes the six-woman team for the World Championships in Nanning, China, in October (chosen not in Pittsburgh but after a later selection camp), she will attempt to end a trend.

In the last 10 years, 10 different women have been the top American all-around finisher at the year’s biggest competition — Worlds or the Olympics.

Speaking of the Olympics, Biles may currently be the world’s greatest gymnast, but that is no guarantee she will wear red, white and blue in Rio de Janeiro in two years.

The best U.S. gymnast in 2010 was Rebecca Bross, who didn’t make the London Olympic team in 2012. Biles will turn 19 before the Rio Games in 2016. The oldest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team that won gold was 18.

“Not only getting to the top is important, but staying on the top is sometimes even harder,” U.S. National Team coordinator Martha Karolyi said. “In order to stay up there and repeat, you have to keep the discipline, the lifestyle the same. … It takes some sacrifices.”

Karolyi spoke of the sport’s rapid turnover rate after the 2013 World Championships when she said there were “several 13-year-olds gearing up for Rio.”

They aren’t ready to challenge Biles yet. The 2011, 2012 and 2013 U.S. junior all-around champions are all out of this week’s competition with injuries (an indication of another reason why it won’t be easy for Biles to sustain the next two years.)

Eight senior women are scheduled to compete on all four events on Thursday and Saturday, the lowest number since at least 1986, USA Gymnastics said. Thirteen in total are in the field.

One would think such a small pool to select from would hurt the overall U.S. team going into Worlds, but Karolyi doesn’t see it that way.

Only three routines per apparatus are needed in Nanning.

Biles and Ross were the world’s two best all-around gymnasts last year, and Karolyi pointed to others competing in Pittsburgh who could fill in the gaps — mentioning Brenna Dowell (strong on uneven bars), MyKayla Skinner (vault) and Madison Kocian (also bars) by name.

“I think, at this moment, we’re still standing pretty good in that direction,” Karolyi said. “We have the pieces that we need.”

U.S. gymnast wins all-around bronze at Youth Olympics

World Cup champ lands first quad cork 1800 (video)

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Switzerland’s Andri Ragettli landed what’s being touted as the first ski quad cork 1800 in a video published recently.

Ragettli, 18, is one of the leading slopestyle skiers in the world. He won the World Cup season title in 2015-16 and placed second this year, in addition to fifth- and sixth-place finishes at the last two Winter X Games.

Previously, Ragettli became the first slopestyle skier to land back-to-back triples in a full competition at the 2016 Winter X Games, according to ESPN.com.

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MORE: McMorris’ brother details life-threatening crash

Mark McMorris’ brother details snowboarder’s life-threatening crash

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Mark McMorris‘ life was in danger after the snowboarder crashed into an area of trees riding in the backcountry in British Columbia on Saturday, according to Postmedia News, quoting older brother Craig.

Craig was there when McMorris, the Sochi slopestyle bronze medalist, suffered a fractured jaw, fractured left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung.

McMorris was found conscious, but he was struggling to breathe with blood in his mouth, according to Canadian media.

“You can die from that, from bleeding out,” Craig said, according to Postmedia News. “But it was so hard for him to breathe, so that was my biggest concern with time. I communicated that to the search and rescue, and that’s why they got there as fast as they possibly could. Mark knew it was super bad. I knew it was super bad. But you just have to think positive, and that’s why he is still here.

More details of the rescue, via Postmedia News:

Craig McMorris and a handful of friends on site peeled off their jackets to create a nest for the injured Olympian. The couldn’t move him for fear of a spinal cord injury, and hypothermia was a real danger while waiting about 90 minutes for search and rescue personnel to arrive. Every minute counted due to the ruptured spleen.

“I’ve been involved in backcountry rescues before,” Craig said, according to the Canadian Press. “This was by far the gnarliest and most severe.”

An airlift to a hospital, two surgeries and two days later, McMorris was looking more upbeat in his hospital bed on both brothers’ Instagram pages Monday.

He has been named to Canada’s Olympic team for PyeongChang, and Craig believes he will be there to compete. Before the accident, McMorris was considered a gold-medal threat in slopestyle and the new event of big air.

“It’s been 48 hours, and he’s gone from being the most broken human to talking and communicating,” Craig said, according to Postmedia News. “In his mind, he’s going to the Olympics. In my mind, he’s going to the Olympics. There’s no reason why he can’t.”

McMorris has come back from injury before, but not this severe.

He won bronze in the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle event in Sochi, competing 12 days after breaking a rib.

He has already come back in this Olympic cycle from breaking his right femur in an Air and Style big air run in Los Angeles on Feb. 21, 2016.

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MORE: McMorris, after horrible injury, ups risk for 2 golds in PyeongChang

Kids tough as nails. All good news from here on out. So much love

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