Simone Biles repeats as World all-around champion (video)

Simone Biles
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Simone Biles became the first woman in 11 years to repeat as World all-around champion, scoring a wire-to-wire victory in Nanning, China, on Friday.

Biles, 17, scored 60.231 points over four apparatuses to win gold by .466 over Romania’s Larisa Iordache. Biles led Iordache by .133 going into the final rotation, floor exercise, but is superior to the Romanian on the event and proved it again under pressure. Biles posted the top floor score of the night among 24 gymnasts by .333 — 15.066.

“It actually blows my mind,” Biles said in a USA Gymnastics interview. “If I think about it right now, I’m just like, what? … It’s just really weird.”

U.S. Olympic team champion Kyla Ross won bronze after taking silver in 2013. Ross, who suffered a hip injury before Worlds, moved up after Russian Aliya Mustafina fell on her floor exercise.

“I was really proud to be able to come out and push through some of the small injuries,” Ross said in a USA Gymnastics interview.

Mustafina had won the World all-around title in 2010, missed 2011 Worlds with an injury and won bronze at the 2012 Olympics and 2013 World Championships.

I did not expect anything,” she said. “I put too much of myself into the team competition [Russia won bronze behind the U.S. and China], and there was no stamina left in me for my own thing in the women’s individual final.”

Biles had a funny moment during the medal ceremony, jumping off the podium because a bee was on her bouquet (video here).

“There was a bee on my flowers and then Larisa told me, so I tried to get the bee off and then the bee chased me, and then it got on Kyla,” she said. “I just don’t do bugs.”

Before Biles, the last woman to repeat as World all-around champion was Russian Svetlana Khorkina. Biles joined Shannon Miller as the only American women to win multiple Olympic or World all-around golds. Mary Lou RettonCarly PattersonNastia Liukin and Gabby Douglas all won one Olympic all-around title and zero World Championships.

Biles also ended this streak for U.S. women’s gymnasts: in the 10 previous years, 10 different women were the top American all-around finishers at the year’s biggest competition — Worlds or the Olympics.

That speaks to the high turnover in women’s gymnastics, leading the sport’s followers to ask if Biles could possibly sustain this level of excellence for another two years to the Rio Olympics.

In terms of the Olympics, keep this in mind: four members of the Fierce Five were competing in the junior division two years before the London Games. And the top U.S. woman at the year’s biggest all-around competition in 2002, 2006 and 2010 did not make the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

Biles was asked if she aspires to be like Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, who won his fifth straight World all-around title Thursday.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I think he’s crazy and I have no idea, but I don’t think so because he’s a legend.”

The World Gymnastics Championships continue with event finals Saturday and Sunday. Biles has chances at three more medals (full schedule here).

Kohei Uchimura, greatest ever after 5th World Championship?

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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