Simone Biles

Simone Biles still buzzing after World Championships whirlwind

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NEW YORK — Simone Biles joked before the World Gymnastics Championships all-around final on Friday that she hadn’t seen a single animal in nearly three weeks training and competing in China.

“I haven’t seen a bird fly, or anything,” she said.

She was, of course, attacked by a bee hours later, on the top step of the podium after winning the all-around title a second straight year. That gold was part of a record five-medal haul that consolidated her status as, far and away, the world’s greatest gymnast.

Biles, 17, escaped the flying tormentor, walked off the podium and retreated to a therapy room Friday night.

You know, a team doctor told her, that bee incident will spread like honey. Yeah, yeah, sure, she responded, brushing it off.

“Then it actually started going viral,” said Biles, who is very active on social media. “It blew my mind. Oh my gosh, I’m jumping off a podium, running from a bee.”

Biles hasn’t stopped buzzing.

She won three more medals over the weekend, flew home to Houston on Monday and then to New York on Tuesday.

Her rewards included headphones and an ear piercing (she got her belly button pierced last year), according to The Associated Press, and the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Sportswoman of the Year award, for her 2013 achievements, in a Wall Street ceremony Wednesday night.

She appeared on “TODAY” on Thursday morning.

Producers from Ellen DeGeneres‘ talk show contacted her parents during that stretch. They’re working on scheduling her appearance.

“My dad told me about it, and I freaked out at the airport,” said Biles, whose legs may not be long enough for her feet to touch the floor in a sitdown interview.

The bee incident generated more response than any of her eye-popping routines last week. Social media followers sent Biles photoshopped pictures of her in a bee costume, or a bee-themed leotard.

Biles is steamrolling toward the Rio Olympics, but she said she needs to improve on balance beam and vault.

She is working on adding eight tenths of difficulty to her second vault, according to the AP, which would match her with the woman who beat her on the event in China, North Korea’s Hong Un-jong. That upgraded vault is a “Cheng,” which Biles has trained for more than a year.

It would also be more difficult than the vaults we’ve seen from McKayla Maroney, the only woman to beat Biles on the event at the 2013 World Championships.

Then there are the uneven bars. That was only apparatus where Biles failed to win a medal at 2013 Worlds — where she finished fourth. Biles was 57th in bars qualifying this year, but she didn’t mind.

“I would rather not compete bars,” Biles said. “Last year, when I made bar finals, I was yelling at the computer, saying, please, somebody bump me out [of the eight-woman field for the bars final], because I didn’t want to touch the bars ever again.”

NBC Olympics analyst Nastia Liukin agreed with fellow Olympic all-around champion Mary Lou Retton that Biles may be the best gymnast she’s ever seen. Liukin, retired since 2012, said she’s happy she’s not competing with her.

Biles must fight a little bit of history to make the Rio Olympics. The top U.S. women’s all-around gymnast at the 2006 World Championships did not make the 2008 Olympics. The top U.S. gymnast at the 2010 World Championships did not make the 2012 Olympics.

But she shouldn’t be as concerned as the rest of the deep U.S. field, such as 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas, floor exercise champion Aly Raisman and Maroney. None of that trio competed this year, but all signs point to them trying to compete in 2015. No U.S. woman has made back-to-back Olympic teams since 1996 and 2000.

Maroney, for one, now faces competition from MyKayla Skinner, who won vault bronze and was fourth on floor exercise at her first World Championships last week. Vault and floor are Maroney’s primary events.

“We haven’t seen these girls compete, but what we do know and what we have seen is Simone out there on the floor and being above and beyond everybody else,” Liukin said. “As of right now, everybody is a factor.”

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Coco Gauff upsets 9th seed to start French Open

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Coco Gauff notched yet another impressive Grand Slam match win, taking out ninth seed Jo Konta in her French Open main draw debut on Sunday.

Gauff, a 16-year-old American, upset the Brit Konta, a 2019 French Open semifinalist, 6-3, 6-3 on the first day of play at Roland Garros despite 12 double faults. Konta had 41 unforced errors to 22 winners.

“Every match is a great win,” said Gauff, the youngest player in either singles draw. “I don’t really take anything for granted because I’m just happy to be playing. I don’t think maybe winning Slams, matches at Slams is something I’m used to. Especially, this is my first main draw Roland Garros. When I’m on the court. I can act like I’m used to it. When I’m off the court, I’m just happy to be here.”

The clay-court Slam was postponed from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, is being held with damp temperatures in the 50s and has limited spectators to 1,000 per day.

“I’m pretty sure this is my first ever pro tournament, maybe even tournament in general, playing in weather like this,” said Gauff, noting she warmed up for 20 minutes before going on court so she could walk in with a sweat.

Gauff, the 2018 French Open junior champion, gets Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan in the second round after playing a match in leggings for the first time in about six years.

She’s coming off an impressive last year-plus, reaching the fourth round at the most recent Wimbledon and Australian Open. In between, she became the youngest WTA tournament champion since 2004. She recorded wins over Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka.

Gauff will bid over the next nine months to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team outright by being among the top four Americans in WTA rankings after the 2021 French Open. Therefore, her result at this French Open will not count toward Olympic qualifying.

She is currently ranked 51st overall and eighth among Americans.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Sunday, Williams finished her 2020 with a third first-round loss in as many Grand Slam tournaments — 6-4, 6-4 to Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

With the WTA’s autumn Asian swing canceled, Williams said she won’t play before next season starts in Australia.

Williams, 40 years old and ranked 76th, will need a scintillating start to 2021 to make the U.S. Olympic team in singles. She is currently the 14th-highest-ranked American. If she doesn’t make it in singles, Williams (or Gauff) could be chosen as a doubles-only player for the Tokyo Games.

Top seed Simona Halep took the last 10 games of her 6-4, 6-0 win over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo. Halep, who is on a 15-match win streak dating to February, could play Gauff in the quarterfinals.

On the men’s side, Stan Wawrinka swept Andy Murray 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in a battle of three-time major champions and a rematch of their life-changing 2017 semifinal in Paris.

“I need to have a long, hard think about it,” Murray said. “I don’t feel like the conditions are an excuse for it.”

It marked Murray’s first match on clay since that semi, won by Wawrinka in five sets. After that match three years ago, Wawrinka underwent two knee surgeries and Murray had two hip surgeries. Neither has made a Grand Slam semifinal since, and Murray nearly retired due to hip problems.

U.S. men went 3-0 on Sunday after winning one match total at the 2019 French Open.

The most notable victor: Sebastian Korda, the 20-year-old son of Czech 1998 Australian Open winner Petr Korda and brother of Nelly Korda, the world’s second-ranked female golfer.

Korda beat Italian veteran Andreas Seppi 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to become the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since 18-year-old Andy Roddick defeated Michael Chang in 2001.

Korda, after his first tour-level win, gets John Isner in the second round.

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, each trying to tie Grand Slam singles titles records, play first-round matches on Monday.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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Julian Alaphilippe wins world road race title with late attack

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Julian Alaphilippe became the first Frenchman to win a road cycling world title in 23 years, attacking late and holding on to prevail by 24 seconds in Imola, Italy, on Sunday.

Alaphilippe, who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey for 16 stages between the last two years, went clear from a star-filled group at the top of the last climb with about eight miles left of a 160-mile day.

“It was a dream of my career, you know,” said Alaphilippe, whose best previous worlds finish was eighth. “I came here with, for sure, a lot of ambition. It’s just a dream day for me.”

Belgian Wout van Aert took silver, followed by Swiss Marc Hirschi in a five-man bunch sprint for the last two medals. Van Aert also earned silver in the time trial on Friday.

Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who was second in the Tour de France, finished sixth in the same time as the silver and bronze medalists after more than six and a half hours of racing.

The top American was Sepp Kuss in 52nd place, 12:35 behind.

Full results are here.

The last Frenchmen to win world titles were Laurent Brochard (road race) and Laurent Jalabert (time trial) in 1997.

Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, who won the Tour de France last Sunday, attacked with 26 miles left. He led by as much as 25 seconds before being reeled back in with about 13 miles to go.

The cycling season continues with the last two Grand Tours, each starting later than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Giro d’Italia begins Oct. 3, and the Vuelta a Espana starts Oct. 20, before the Giro finishes.

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MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes