Simone Biles leads after first day of women’s competition at U.S. gymnastics championships

Simone Biles
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First-year senior Simone Biles posted a massive all-around score of 60.50 on the first night of competition at U.S. Gymnastics Nationals, which doesn’t just top the standings in the U.S. — it’s the highest score in the world this season.

Everybody’s scores Thursday will be combined with scores Saturday (8 p.m., NBC and online here) to determine a new national champion at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

Biles, 16, competed as though her three-fall performance at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago never happened. She started strong on the uneven bars (14.75) and posted the highest score on floor exercise (15.05), but it was on the balance beam when she punched in what could be considered one of the greatest full twisting double back somersault dismounts of all time.

She earned a 14.9 on beam, also leading the field, and enters the second and final night of competition Saturday with a lead of .75 over Olympian Kyla Ross. Performances at the National Championships will help determine who will be chosen for the four-gymnast team going to the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, Sept. 30-Oct. 6.

Biles continued her bounce back from the U.S. Classic in July, when she didn’t record a score over 14. This is the same gymnast who beat Ross at the Jesolo Trophy in Italy in March.

“I kept my mindset to do what I did in Europe,” Biles said.

McKayla Maroney, who is competing on two of four apparatus in Hartford, hit her floor routine with ease (14.85, second to Biles), and vaulted well, but not her best, taking a big step forward on her signature Amanar. Nevertheless, she leads field on that event by one tenth of a point over Biles.

Ross stumbled on the same floor tumbling pass that gave her trouble at the U.S. Classic, only to roar back on her last two events — vault and bars.

“I don’t really know what happened on beam and floor,” Ross said. “I maybe had a little bit of jitters. I know starting on beam is a little difficult.”

Third place Brenna Dowell, 17, proved that she is becoming one of the most dependable U.S. gymnasts. She made only one major mistake, on her first event, uneven bars, and performed a very impressive front handspring double front pike on floor.

It was a frustrating night for Elizabeth Price. The 2012 Olympic alternate was unable to work her way out of an error on the uneven bars, one of her best events, and took a fall. Price, who is recovering from injury, will be looking to improve on night two and can still impress U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi at the selection camp in September.

It was also a disappointing night for Madison Kocian. the latest gymnast out of the Texas WOGA pipeline that produced Olympic all-around champions Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin. Kocian led the all-around after two rotations before badly rolling her ankle on the floor and eventually opting to not finish Thursday’s competition. No word yet on if she’ll be continue Saturday.

Peyton Ernst, one of Kim Zmeskal’s stars, delivered big time on the vault, sticking her 2 1/2-twisting Yurchenko, but came apart on the balance beam. She’s in fourth place.

Here are the standings after the first of two nights of competition:

Women’s all-around
1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 60.500
2. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 59.750
3. Brenna Dowell, Odessa, Mo., 58.450
4. Peyton Ernst, Coppell, Texas, 57.450
5. Maggie Nichols, Little Canada, Minn., 56.950

Vault
1. McKayla Maroney, Long Beach, Calif., 15.500
2. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 15.400
3. Mykayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz., 14.850

Uneven bars
1. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 15.500
2. Madison Kocian, Dallas, Texas, 15.000
3. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 14.750
4. Peyton Ernst, Coppell, Texas, 14.600
5. Brenna Dowell, Odessa, Mo., 14.500

Balance beam
1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 14.900
2. Madison Kocian, Dallas, Texas, 14.800
3. Kyla Ross, Aliso Viejo, Calif., 14.700
4. Abigail Milliet, Denton, Texas, 14.600
5. Kennedy Baker, Flower Mound, Texas, 14.300

Floor exercise
1. Simone Biles, Spring, Texas, 15.050
2. McKayla Maroney, Long Beach, Calif., 14.850
3. Mykayla Skinner, Gilbert, Ariz., 14.750
4. Brenna Dowell, Odessa, Mo., 14.600
4. Madison Desch, Lenexa, Kan., 14.600

Men’s competition preview, schedule

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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