Seven gold medalists who still can’t vote

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Dear America: go vote.

No, seriously, if you’re an American of voting age currently reading this and you haven’t voted, please turn off your computer (or phone, or what have you) and go to your local polling location. Done? Cool.

One of our favorite Olympians in history, Bob Mathias, was only 17 when he won his first of two consecutive decathlon golds at the 1948 London Games. Unfortunately the teen champ then fell about 15 days shy of voting in the election when Truman famously defeated Dewey a couple months later.

We say unfortunately because we assume Mathias would have been one of the first people at the polls. And he likely would have tried to tip the scales in Dewey’s favor since he later became a four-term republican congressman from California, but we’ll never know for sure.

So with another London Olympics is in the books wanted to know which 2012 American gold medalists are still too young to vote. We’d like to imagine at least one of the seven teen gold medalists, who accounted for 11 golds between them, will follow in Mathias’s footsteps and  one day represent her state on Capitol Hill.

Katie Ledecky, 15, Maryland – swimming gold in 800m freestyle
Gabby Douglas, 16, Iowa – gymnastics gold in team and all-around competition
McKayla Maroney, 16, California – gymnastics gold in team competition, silver in vault
Kyla Ross, 16, California – gymnastics gold in team competition
Jordyn Weiber, 17, Michigan – gymnastics gold in team competition
Missy Franklin, 17, Colorado – swimming gold in 100m and 200m back, and two relays
Claressa Shields, 17, New York – boxing gold in the middleweight division

Also notable: Lia Neal of New York won a swimming bronze in London at only 17, and our entire ladies table tennis team, which includes Ariel Hsing, Erica Wu, and Lily Zhang, is made up of 16-year-olds from California.

WATCH LIVE: Simone Biles returns to U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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Simone Biles‘ comeback continues at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Friday night.

Biles enters her second meet since the Rio Olympics, where she earned four gold medals.

She is a clear favorite to win her fifth U.S. all-around title, which would break the record she currently shares.

LIVE STREAM: U.S. Gym Championships — 8 p.m. ET (for Olympic Channel subscribers)

Biles showed her comeback was for real at her first meet back three weeks ago, winning the U.S. Classic despite an uneven bars fall. Her all-around score was the highest in the world since Rio.

Friday marks the fifth anniversary of Biles’ first national title, when she was a braces-wearing, first-year senior gymnast oozing with talent but also unproven. She became so dominant that the prevailing notion was that everyone else was competing in a non-Simone division.

A new generation of women go up against Biles in the two-day meet that concludes Sunday.

That includes Ragan Smith and Morgan Hurd, who won the U.S. and world all-around titles in Biles’ absence last year, and Riley McCusker, who led the U.S. Classic going into the final rotation.

Gymnasts are competing to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.

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GYM NATIONALS: TV/Stream Schedule | Where Are The Final Five?

Ragan Smith defends U.S. gymnastics title, competing through pain

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BOSTON — When Ragan Smith won the U.S. all-around title last August, her margin of victory was greater than Simone Biles‘ average the previous four years.

At the world championships in October, Smith fell off the balance beam in qualifying and still posted the second-highest all-around score, just .001 off the lead. If Smith hit all four routines in the final, she would be crowned the world’s greatest gymnast of 2017 (during Biles’ break from the sport).

But as the all-around final began at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Smith crutched out of the training gym. She suffered three torn left ankle ligaments on a warm-up vault, according to the Dallas Morning News, that needed four to five months to heal.

Smith is expected to compete in the all-around at the U.S. Championships on Friday and Sunday (broadcast schedule here), looking to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.

The ankle still hurts sometimes. So do her three or four broken toes. Smith doesn’t know the exact number because she doesn’t like to get medical check-ups before meets. She would think too much about the diagnosis.

In fact, Smith said she felt pain in practice every day for the last year.

“Everything starts hurting worse because we’re getting older,” said Smith, who turned 18 last week. Smith added that a coach joked to her recently, “You already have a 100-year-old body.” 

“Everybody I feel like has injuries here and there,” she said. “Everybody’s like banged up right now. We [gymnasts] are so strong mentally and physically that I feel like we push through it.”

Back home in the Dallas area, Smith marks her goals on a dry-erase board. The chief one for her two summer meets is this: Be the best Ragan I can be.

“That’s all I’m really striving for this competition,” she said Wednesday.

Smith did not do the all-around at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago, skipping floor exercise because she wants to debut it as a surprise this week. She called Classic “a practice run,” where her best result was third on beam.

Only two gymnasts per nation can compete in a world all-around final. If Biles is one of them, then Smith has to beat out Morgan Hurd (who won the 2017 World all-around title after Smith’s injury) and Riley McCusker (second to Biles at the U.S. Classic).

Smith, the youngest Rio Olympic alternate, is determined to compete on the elite level through 2020. She can take motivation from her bedroom wall and that dry-erase board, both of which had the same quote posted — “She believed she could so she did.”

“These coming up years, it’s definitely who’s in the game the longest. It’s definitely who’s not injured,” she said. “That’s pretty much who they pick, I feel like. You’re training your whole life for one year of gymnastics because that’s when you have to be at your highest peak. I definitely feel like it’s who’s in the game the longest and who can survive and who can help their body the best.”

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