Sam Mikulak

Sam Mikulak, Elizabeth Price win American Cup (video)

Leave a comment

Sam Mikulak wants another shot at the World Championships and Olympics. Elizabeth Price eyes her first trip to either.

Mikulak and Price took early steps to both major competitions by topping international fields at the American Cup in Greensboro, N.C., on Saturday.

Mikulak overtook Japan’s Shogo Nonomura in the final rotation after Nonomura fell on high bar. Mikulak, the reigning U.S. all-around champion, won his first American Cup with 90.098 points.

Nonomura finished 1.133 behind. Another American, John Orozco, was fifth.

“Final rotation was intense,” Mikulak said on NBC. “There was a lot of nerves going in. Big crowd. Big stadium. I just wanted to go out there and hit my routine, no falls, and then let the pressure sink in on the other competitors. It worked out in my favor.”

Price cruised with 59.966, bettering fellow American Brenna Dowell by a comfortable 2.434. She also won her first American Cup.

“To add this title to a list of many, it’s pretty cool,” Price said. “I hope to keep making the list bigger and bigger.”

Mikulak was the least experienced member of the 2012 U.S. men’s Olympic team that finished a disappointing fifth in London. The 21-year-old Michigan senior came back in 2013 to win his first U.S. all-around title.

But Mikulak won zero medals at the 2013 World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, where he finished sixth in the all-around after being second to Japanese legend Kohei Uchimura in qualifying.

Mikulak remained the best American man by topping Orozco in Greensboro.

“To be able to win another American title outside of the NCAA season, it just feels spectacular,” Mikulak said. “I’m excited for what else is to come.”

Orozco, also 21, won the 2012 U.S. all-around title going into the Olympics, but he did not bring back any medals from London. He suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in October 2012 and came back to win world bronze on parallel bars in Antwerp.

Mikulak and Orozco could face competition from Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva and two-time Olympian Jonathan Horton at the U.S. Championships in Pittsburgh from Aug. 21-24.

Leyva, 22, needs to improve upon results from last year’s U.S. Championships (seventh overall) and last month’s Winter Cup (ninth overall) if he’s to be an international medal threat again.

Horton, 28, had shoulder surgery in early 2013 and missed the entire season. He petitioned onto the National Team for 2014 though, a strong indicator of his intention to compete again.

This year’s World Championships, in October in Nanning, China, will include a team competition, unlike in 2013. The U.S. men should vie for medals with powerhouses Japan and China.

Price, 17, notched her biggest victory on U.S. soil at the American Cup. The alternate for the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships is a threat for medals at this year’s U.S. Championships and World Championships should she stay healthy.

“Being so close to the Olympic team back in 2012 definitely made me like really hungry for more meets,” Price said. “Hopefully I can soon say that I’ve won even bigger meets than this one.”

Dowell, also 17, made the 2013 World Championships team after taking third in the all-around at the U.S. Championships. She did not compete in Antwerp, however. Instead, the U.S. opted to enter Simone BilesKyla Ross and McKayla Maroney in all-around qualifying.

So Price and Dowell go into the major spring, summer and fall events with something to prove. The next big meet is the Pacific Rim Championships at the 2010 Olympic speed skating oval in Richmond, B.C., from April 9-12.

The women-only U.S. Classic just outside Chicago is Aug. 2.

Biles and Ross, the world all-around gold and silver medalists, missed the American Cup with injuries. Maroney is trying to bolster her all-around prospects after winning a world title on vault last year.

That’s not to mention the expected return of triple Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, perhaps at the U.S. Classic. Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber have said they’ve returned to training, but it’s unknown when they will compete again.

Ryan Hall impressed by president Obama’s jogging skills

Simone Biles, her name sparkling, extends 6-year win streak

Leave a comment

Simone Biles has long stood out for her gymnastics, but on Saturday she competed with her last name sparkling in silver beads on her World Champions Centre leotard for the first time. The gym’s other athletes had “WCC” on the back.

Biles lived up to the billing, extending her six-year win streak to 19 straight all-arounds, capturing the U.S. Classic, a tune-up for next month’s U.S. Championships.

Biles, the four-time Rio Olympic champion, scored 60 points in Louisville at the meet where she made her comeback last year after nearly two years off from competition. She prevailed by a comfortable 2.1 points over Riley McCusker, her largest margin of victory of her four U.S. Classic titles.

“I’m very satisfied,” she said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “I’m a little sad that I went out of bounds on floor [exercise], but overall I feel like there are improvements to be made.”

Full results are here.

Biles is prepping for nationals in Kansas City in three weeks, when she eyes a sixth U.S. all-around title to tie Clara Schroth Lomady‘s record from the AAU era in the 1940s and ’50s.

Then come the world championships in October in Stuttgart, Germany. Biles could win a fifth all-around to move one shy of Kohei Uchimura‘s record.

The world’s other top gymnasts may be her countrywomen.

Biles was outscored on balance beam on Saturday by 2018 World teammates Kara Eaker and McCusker and beaten on uneven bars by 2017 World all-around champion Morgan HurdSunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and McCusker. Biles swept all the gold medals at last year’s nationals.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: USA Gymnastics revamps Safe Sport policy amid abuse scandal

Geraint Thomas struggles; Julian Alaphilippe ups Tour de France lead

Leave a comment

LA MONGIE, France (AP) — When the team of Geraint Thomas was in its pomp at the Tour de France, a time trial followed by a big mountain stage would have been playgrounds for Sky — now in new colors as Ineos — to take cycling’s greatest race by the scruff of the neck and leave everyone else fighting for second place.

Not this year.

Thomas, the defending champion, cracked on Saturday on the Tour’s first encounter with a climb to above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), exposing unprecedented weaknesses in his team that has won six Tours in the past seven years.

The time trial on Friday and the climb up to the legendary Tourmalet pass on Saturday seemed primed for Thomas to reel in Julian Alaphilippe, the yellow jersey-holder from France who is setting the Tour alight with his punchy riding and determination to keep the race lead, filling French fans’ heads with dreams of a first homegrown winner since 1985.

TOUR DE FRANCE: TV Schedule | Full Standings

But instead, Thomas has seen Alaphilippe only get further and further away. In two days, the Frenchman has put 50 seconds of extra daylight between him and the Welshman. His lead — up to 2 minutes, 2 seconds — is becoming large enough to start realistically envisioning Alaphilippe in yellow in Paris next weekend as the first French winner since Bernard Hinault.

Fueling the ecstasy of delirious crowds that lined Saturday’s steep uphill finish, French rider Thibaut Pinot won Stage 14, putting him back in the picture to fight for the podium after he lost mountains of time on Stage 10.

Thomas rightly pointed out that the Tour is far from done, with six more ascents to above 2,000 meters still to come.

But his inability to stay with Pinot, Alaphilippe and other title contenders at the top of the Tourmalet — he was eighth, 36 seconds behind Pinot — was a mini-earthquake for the Tour dominated by his British team since 2012 — with champions Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and, in 2018, Thomas.

“Not the best day. I just didn’t feel quite on it from the start. I was quite weak,” Thomas said.

“At the end I knew I just had to pace it. I didn’t really attempt to follow when they kicked. I just thought I should ride my own pace rather than follow them and blow up on the steepest bit at the end. It’s disappointing. I just tried to limit the damage.”

Having taken cycling to a new level since 2012 with its vast budget and attention to the minutest of details, the team run by David Brailsford has been hit both by misfortune and by the inevitability that, eventually, other teams would start to close the gap.

A horror crash in training for four-time winner Froome, now recovering from career-threatening broken bones, robbed the team of its ace. Thomas’ own preparations were hampered by a crash at the Tour of Switzerland last month.

And Egan Bernal, being groomed by Brailsford to succeed Froome and Thomas, looks increasingly unable to compete for the title this year. Bernal was fifth on the Tourmalet and is fourth overall, 3 minutes behind Alaphilippe.

Pinot, now sixth overall and 3:12 behind Alaphilippe, is showing remarkable grit in bouncing back from his Stage 10 misfortune, when he was part of a group that got separated from other title contenders in crosswinds.

“I have this rage inside me, because in my opinion it was an injustice,” said Pinot, a podium finisher in 2014.

“Since the start of the Tour I had this stage in the back of my mind. The Tourmalet, it’s mythical,” said Pinot, who has three career stage wins at the Tour.

French President Emmanuel Macron, on hand at the top of the Tourmalet to see Pinot win and Alaphilippe extend his lead, gushed about the “two fantastic riders.”

“They attack and they have heart,” Macron said.

Watch world-class cycling events throughout the year with the NBC Sports Gold Cycling Pass, including all 21 stages of the Tour de France live & commercial-free, plus access to renowned races like La Vuelta, Paris-Roubaix, the UCI World Championships and many more.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!