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Watch Simone Biles’ top-scoring ‘Dancing with the Stars’ debut

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Simone Biles winked at Laurie Hernandez before her first performance on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Then she channeled her “inner Laurie” and posted the highest score of the 12 contestants on the season premiere Monday night, 32 points out of 40.

A great start for Biles, who is looking to follow Hernandez and make it back-to-back gymnasts to lift the Mirrorball Trophy later this spring.

Biles, the last contestant to go, performed a tango with partner Sasha Farber that drew rave reviews from judges.

“You guys are the power couple,” Carrie Ann Inaba said as Farber lifted Biles off the floor and the gymnast giggled. “That was an exquisite exhibition of technique, elegance and power all wrapped together in a crunchy, yummy tango.”

Len Goodman called it, “the dance of the night.”

“You are the whole package, your frame, your posture, your footwork, your Sasha,” Julianne Hough said. “You guys are the dynamic duo.”

Farber said Biles was so nervous before their dance that she didn’t speak in the preceding minutes backstage.

“I would rather do [balance] beam,” Biles said afterward, noting she took off her heels pretty quickly after the show.

Earlier Monday, two-time Olympic figure skating medalist Nancy Kerrigan scored 28 points with partner Artem Chigvintsev. Kerrigan tied for the third-highest score of the night.

Judge Bruno Tonioli said Kerrigan’s waltz made him feel “enveloped by a luxurious cashmere shawl.” The panel told Kerrigan she needed to improve on her footwork, eyes and leg extension.

“I’m sad that now it’s done because it’s gotten better and better,” she said. “Finally, it was feeling pretty good. Now it’s done. So I’m excited to do next week.”

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VIDEO: Tom Brady calls Simone Biles ‘the GOAT’

Simone Biles steps into ‘Dancing with the Stars’ as favorite

Simone Biles, Sasha Farber
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Simone Biles is a clear favorite of 12 celebrities on this season’s “Dancing with the Stars,” starting Monday, to lift the Mirrorball Trophy later this spring.

All four Olympic gymnasts who have competed in the ABC show’s 23-season history have finished in the top four.

Two were crowned champions — Shawn Johnson in 2009 and Laurie Hernandez just last year. Johnson and Hernandez, as teens, were the youngest champions in show history.

But there are factors working against Biles.

Biles, who turned 20 years old on Tuesday, is paired with Russian-born Australian professional dancer Sasha Farber, who has never made the top four in four show appearances.

Biles also admits her lack of dance experience. The Texan emphasized that she never danced with a man before Farber (though she did get pretty close with singer Jake Miller in a music video last year).

Early training for the show has not been kind to the 4-foot-9 Biles’ feet.

“I want to learn how to dance,” Biles said after being announced as a cast member March 1. “I’m so nervous, because you have to get out of your comfort zone.”

In competing, Biles knows little else than winning. She hasn’t been beaten in an all-around competition in nearly four years. But Farber doesn’t want to make this contest about results.

“We set one goal, and that’s to make sure we have a good time,” he said.

Olympians as a whole tend to perform well on the show — see winners Apolo Anton OhnoKristi Yamaguchi and Meryl Davis.

And Biles is not the only Olympian competing this season.

Enter Nancy Kerrigan, the 1992 and 1994 Olympic medalist best known for being attacked by a man hired by rival Tonya Harding‘s ex-husband at the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Kerrigan has largely been out of the public eye in the last 20 years — she said she preferred it that way — making her inclusion on “Dancing with the Stars” a shock.

All previous figure skaters on the show finished in the top five (save Dorothy Hamill, who withdrew during season 16 in 2003 due to a back injury).

But Kerrigan is 47, more than 10 years older than the previous figure skaters to finish so high. Only two celebrities older than Kerrigan have won the Mirrorball Trophy — actors Donny Osmond and Jennifer Grey.

Like Biles, Kerrigan expressed nervousness.

“Because of skating, it’s prepared [me] in that I know how to move my body,” said Kerrigan, a mother of three paired with Russian-born Artem Chigvintsev. “Not necessarily in the ballroom, because the positions and things are very different, but I can follow direction and, as an athlete, have been told what to do my whole life. And then do it. As a skater, we perform to music. That may help me to feel the music.”

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MORE: Biles in pain after first day of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ training

A list of Olympians (and one Paralympian) to compete on Dancing with the Stars:

Season 1 — Evander Holyfield (1984, boxing)
Season 4 — Apolo Ohno (2002-2010, short track speed skating) — WINNER, Clyde Drexler (1992, basketball)
Season 5 — Floyd Mayweather Jr. (1996, boxing)
Season 6 — Kristi Yamaguchi (1992, figure skating) — WINNER, Monica Seles (1996-2000, tennis)
Season 7 — Maurice Greene (2000-2004, track and field), Misty May-Treanor (2000-2012, volleyball)
Season 8 — Shawn Johnson (2008, gymnastics) — WINNER
Season 9 — Louie Vito (2010, snowboarding), Natalie Coughlin (2004-2012, swimming)
Season 10 — Evan Lysacek (2006-2010, figure skating)
Season 12 — Sugar Ray Leonard (1976, boxing)
Season 13 — Hope Solo (2004-2016, soccer)
Season 14 — Martina Navratilova (2004, tennis)
Season 15 — Shawn Johnson, Apolo Ohno
Season 16 — Dorothy Hamill (1976, figure skating), Aly Raisman (2012-2016, gymnastics)
Season 18 — Meryl Davis (2010-2014, figure skating) — WINNER, Charlie White (2010-2014, figure skating), Amy Purdy (2014, snowboarding)
Season 19 — Lolo Jones (2008, 2012, 2014, track and field/bobsled)
Season 20 — Nastia Liukin (2008, gymnastics)
Season 23 — Laurie Hernandez (2016, gymnastics) — WINNER, Ryan Lochte (2004-2016, swimming)
Season 24 — Simone Biles (2016, gymnastics), Nancy Kerrigan (1992-94, figure skating)

USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny resigns amid scandal

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Steve Penny resigned as president of USA Gymnastics on Thursday following intensified pressure on the organization for its handling of sex abuse cases.

The resignation came a week after the United States Olympic Committee’s board recommended to USA Gymnastics chairman Paul Parilla that Penny should step down. Penny offered his resignation during a previously scheduled board meeting on Thursday.

“My decision to step aside as CEO is solely to support the best interests of USA Gymnastics at this time,” Penny said in a statement.

Penny joined USA Gymnastics in 1999 and was named the organization’s president in 2005, overseeing one of the greatest runs in Olympic history. Led by national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, the women’s program has become a dominant force, producing each of the last four Olympic all-around champions and team golds in 2012 and 2016.

The success turned gymnasts like Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson into stars and made USA Gymnastics a magnet for big-time corporate sponsors who wanted to be aligned with its healthy, winning image.

That image took a serious hit in recent months following an investigation by the Indianapolis Star that portrayed USA Gymnastics as slow to act when it came to addressing allegations of sexual abuse by a team doctor and coaches at member gyms across the country.

“The Board believes this change in leadership will help USA Gymnastics face its current challenges and implement solutions to move the organization forward in promoting a safe environment for its athletes at all levels,” Parilla said in a statement.

Last fall, Jamie Dantzscher, a member of the 2000 Olympic team, filed a civil lawsuit in California against USA Gymnastics and former team doctor Larry Nassar.

The lawsuit claims Nassar — who worked for the organization on a volunteer basis for nearly 30 years before being dismissed in the summer of 2015 — sexually groped and fondled the gymnasts as teenagers. Subsequent lawsuits have followed, including some that name Penny, Karolyi and her husband Bela as co-defendants because they “had knowledge of inappropriate conduct and molestations committed by (Nassar) before and during his employment, yet chose to allow him to remain unsupervised where he sexually abused plaintiff.”

Martha Karolyi retired last August and sold the training gyms at the Karolyi Ranch north of Houston to USA Gymnastics.

Nassar was fired by USA Gymnastics after Penny heard of an athlete’s concerns about Nassar’s conduct and went to federal authorities. The organization initially claimed it notified the authorities immediately but amended its timeline last month, indicating it conducted its own investigation during a five-week span before reporting Nassar to the FBI. Nassar is currently in prison in Michigan, where he worked for decades at Michigan State University before being let go last fall. He faces charges in both the state and federal system.

USA Gymnastics hired a former federal prosecutor last fall to conduct an extensive review of the organization’s policies in regards to potential sexual misconduct. The report by Deborah J. Daniels is expected sometime in the spring or early summer.

The gregarious Penny — whose booming voice and penchant for wearing eye-catching shoes during big events made him stand out in a sea of gymnasts — has denied any wrongdoing and the USA Gymnastics board of directors had remained supportive throughout the firestorm.

That didn’t stop the USOC from sending recommendations to USA Gymnastics Thursday. While the USOC does not have official authority to remove heads of national governing bodies, it can apply pressure by threatening to without funding. The USOC gives USA Gymnastics a cash grant of nearly $2 million annually.

Pressure also has been building within the gymnastics community. International Gymnastics Camp, a summer camp located in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, announced last week it was pulling its sponsorship of the organization until “USA Gymnastics must become the leading governing body in child safety considerations including National Team programs and club programs alike,” camp director Brent Klaus wrote in an open letter on the camp’s web site.

Penny’s departure is not enough for some of the women who have filed suit against Nassar and the organization. Attorney John Manly, who is representing more than 70 women currently suing Nassar and USA Gymnastics, issued a letter to USOC chairman Larry Probst this weekend asking the USOC to de-certify USA Gymnastics.

The letter pointed to the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act, a federal law that guarantees athletes the right to compete without discrimination. The letter pointed to misconduct by coaches as proof that USA Gymnastics “maternally inhibits these women’s ability to participate in their sport.”

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MORE: Liukin ‘completely shocked’ by allegations