Simone Biles

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

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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

Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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