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Simone Biles clarifies timeline for gymnastics break

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Don’t expect to see Simone Biles compete at all in 2017.

“I won’t be competing for at least a year and a half,” Biles said Thursday during a media tour promoting her book, “Courage to Soar,” at the 15-minute mark here. “I’m going to take some time off from the gym, just so that I can go out, have fun and really just embrace the moment that we have. Especially vacation, because I couldn’t do that before with how much I trained. I was always in the gym.

“I think my body needs a rest,” Biles added, smiling. “It’s breaking down on me for a little bit.”

Biles last competed at the Rio Olympics in August, which would mean a break of at least 18 months would go into 2018.

Biles previously said she would take at least one year off from competing, while leaving the door open to possibly make a late run for the October 2017 World Championships in Montreal. Biles said she plans to return at some point to make a run for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Biles’ absence in 2017 means she will pass the baton of world all-around champion to a different gymnast. Biles won three straight world all-around titles from 2013 through 2015, before taking four golds and a bronze in Rio.

An American has taken the last six combined Olympic and world all-around titles, starting in 2011.

The last non-American to win, Aliya Mustafina of Russia in 2010, could compete at 2017 Worlds. Mustafina took bronze behind Biles and Aly Raisman at the Rio Games.

Raisman, like Biles, said she’s taking 2017 off from competition. Gabby Douglas, the 2012 Olympic champion and 2015 World silver medalist, hasn’t said if or when she’ll return to competition.

Biles could follow the trend set by Raisman and Douglas in the last Olympic cycle. That duo took all of 2013 and 2014 off from competition before returning.

Next year’s all-around favorite may well be Laurie Hernandez, who finished second to Biles at the Olympic Trials but did not compete in the all-around in Rio.

VIDEO: Biles shows Stephen Colbert how to stick the landing

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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