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

Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic logo unveiled

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The logos for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games were unveiled at one of Beijing’s iconic Olympic venues — the Water Cube, where Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in 2008.

Beijing will become the first city to host a Summer and a Winter Olympics in February 2022.

The logos unveiled Friday — which replace the Candidate City logo used when Beijing beat Almaty, Kazakhstan, in a 2015 IOC members vote for the 2022 Games — are named “Winter Dream” (Olympics) and “Flying High” (Paralympics), according to Xinhua News Agency.

The designs were chosen from 4,506 worldwide submissions, according to Chinese media.

“The Olympic emblem was initially drawn on the idea of the Chinese character ‘dong’ (winter) in the bid emblem, with the character rendered in Chinese calligraphy representing Chinese culture,” designer Lin Cunzhen said, according to the Xinhua. “Meanwhile, a pattern combining ice sports and snow sports was used to represent the Olympic Games.”

More from Beijing 2022:

The upper part of the emblem resembles a skater and its lower part a skier. The ribbon-like motif in between, full of rhythm, stands for the host country’s rolling mountains, Games venues, ski courses and skating tracks. The ribbons, as artistically expressed in the emblem, give a touch of festivity and are an indication that the Games coincide with the celebrations of the Chinese New Year.

The Water Cube will become the Ice Cube for the 2022 Olympics, hosting curling. The Bird’s Nest will host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as it did for the 2008 Olympics.

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MORE: Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic promo video

The emblem for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games is shown after being unveiled at a ceremony at the National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube, in Beijing, Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
The emblem for the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympic Games is shown after being unveiled at a ceremony at the National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube, in Beijing, Friday, Dec. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Indian luger set for 6th (and likely last) Olympics

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) — Shiva Keshavan is probably not going to medal at the PyeongChang Olympics.

That doesn’t make him irrelevant.

His name gets heard globally once every four years, because of his story: A guy from India, where there is no great winter sports legacy to speak of, goes to the Olympics — in luge of all things.

When he competes in PyeongChang, it’ll be his sixth and almost certainly final time as an Olympian. He’s never finished better than 25th at an Olympics, and he won’t be a podium contender in February.

Ask him if it was worth it, and he doesn’t hesitate before saying yes.

“I didn’t do this for other people to look at my story,” Keshavan said. “I did it for myself. I did it to improve myself and I feel that I’ve come a long way. Until now I’ve learned a lot, traveled the world, met people all over the world and I’ve been privileged to do that. And, well, if other people look at me, I know they’ll respect me for what I did.”

Keshavan was doomed by sled problems and finished 31st in a 35-slider Nations Cup event Thursday night at Mount Van Hoevenberg, meaning he won’t be in Friday’s World Cup. Only the top 15 from the Nations Cup advanced.

But that doesn’t deter him. It never has.

Keshavan’s attitude has been infectious among other sliders for years, and it’s clear he’ll be missed if this — as he expects — is the end of his Olympic journey.

“It really is kind of like a community that you’re a part of, and it’s something that’s really hard to let go,” said longtime U.S. luger Chris Mazdzer, one of the many on the luge circuit who considers Keshavan a good friend. “It is a lot of fun traveling, competing all around the world with a great group of people.”

Keshavan is sort of an unofficial member of many national teams.

Keshavan calls Lake Placid his home track, even though it’s 7,000 miles from the Himalayan region that is his actual home.

When he finished Thursday night, Australians and Ukrainians were among the first to offer him words of congratulations. And last week Keshavan got help from a Croatian just so he could compete.

Keshavan’s sled broke, so Daria Obratov offered hers.

It was way too small for Keshavan, and not exactly contoured for him, but he used it anyway to finish the Nations Cup race in Calgary — which essentially clinched his spot for PyeongChang.

“Although we represent different countries, the Olympic spirit knows no boundaries,” Obratov said.

Keshavan made his Olympic debut as a 16-year-old at Nagano in 1998, when he placed 28th. He’s been an Olympic regular since, placing 33rd in Salt Lake City in 2002, 25th at Torino in 2006, 29th at Vancouver in 2010 and 37th at Sochi.

He’s always been somewhere around five or 10 seconds behind the gold medalists.

He comes much closer in World Cup races, where sliders compete in two runs instead of the Olympic four. And he hasn’t exploited the system — even though he’s not exactly an Olympic medalist, he is competitive.

Besides, he’ll be a six-time Olympian. That’s more of a legacy than he ever envisioned.

“I gave my best,” Keshavan said. “Maybe that’s the thing I want to be remembered for: He gave his best and he never gave up.”

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