Simone Biles

Simone Biles dominates to open P&G Championships

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PITTSBURGH — Simone Biles‘ coach has taught the gymnast not to look at her scores during competition.

“As time went on, I’ve just looked at them anyways,” Biles said. “It scares me if I don’t know my score.”

Biles didn’t need to look to know on the first night of the P&G Championships. She performed like the globe’s greatest gymnast.

The reigning World all-around champion took a whopping 3.15-point lead halfway through the U.S. all-around competition at Consol Energy Center. Biles, 17, can wrap up her second straight title Saturday night.

She notched the highest scores on balance beam (15.7, video), floor exercise (15.65, video) and vault (15.9, video) on Thursday. The short-but-powerful Texan wrapped her night with a 14.55 on uneven bars (video), her weakest event.

Biles’ all-around total is 61.8 points, 1.3 higher than her first-day total in 2013, when she entered the P&G Championships with little fanfare, coming off a horrendous warm-up meet two weeks earlier.

Maggie Nichols is a distant second with 58.65 points. Biles’ lead is comfortable, but consider Jordyn Wieber won the 2011 title by 6.15 points after two days.

Olympian Kyla Ross had the worst day of competition she could remember, falling on floor exercise and putting her knee down on her uneven bars dismount. Ross is in fourth place out of just eight all-around competitors.

“I don’t remember ever falling twice in a meet,” said Ross, who is 3.85 points behind.

Biles leads much more comfortably than at last year’s P&G Championships, where she edged Ross by .75 on the first day. Biles finished just .2 ahead of Ross after the final day.

“[Biles] is a year better trained, and she has more confidence,” said her coach, Aimee Boorman. “She has more experience under her belt. She went to World Championships last year and did her thing [becoming the third U.S. woman to ever win four medals at a Worlds].”

Biles received advice from the most important woman in U.S. gymnastics before competing Thursday. Be confident, U.S. National Team coordinator Martha Karolyi told her.

“Simone’s still intimidated by her,” Boorman said. “She really values Martha’s opinion.”

But Biles admitted to nerves on her first apparatus, because she was last up in the order on the four-inch-wide balance beam.

“I was freaking out,” Biles said, “because Kyla’s always last.”

She was shaky in warm-up and approached Boorman.

“I just need to trust myself, right?” Biles said.

“Exactly,” her coach responded.

“I didn’t need to say anything,” Boorman said. “She was coaching herself in that moment.”

The not-quite-five-feet Biles bobbled slightly and took a slight hop forward on her dismount, but her score was a half-point better than anybody else.

“I thought beam was shaky,” Biles said. “I guess that’s just because I can feel it more than people see.”

She improved on floor and vault, outscoring her routines from last year’s meet, and finished with a satisfactory effort by her standard on bars.

How did Boorman see it?

“As her coach?” Boorman said. “I saw a lot of mistakes.”

Boorman said Biles didn’t stick any landings, could have displayed tighter form and executed with greater precision.

“[Biles] knows all of that,” Boorman said.

Which brought Boorman to her tenet, not looking up at that giant scoreboard.

“It is about their performance, not about their score,” she said. “They have no control over their score. It could be a tough day of judging. It could be an easy day of judging. It’s all about, do you feel like you improved from what you did before.”

NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra will air coverage of the women’s all-around first day Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

Sam Mikulak leads decorated men’s field

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban