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.”

Gracie Gold calls audible, adds lyrics for post-Olympic season

Copenhagen withdraws as 2021 World Gymnastics Championships host, cites pandemic

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Copenhagen withdrew as host of the 2021 World Gymnastics Championships, citing financial strain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gymnastics worlds are usually not held in Olympic years, but the October 2021 edition remained scheduled when the Tokyo Games were postponed to summer 2021.

Denmark’s gymnastics federation board made the decision to not host worlds due in part to uncertainty about the global development of the coronavirus pandemic. That combined with financial losses already associated with the pandemic led to the bowing out.

The International Gymnastics Federation executive committee will “consider all consequences” from Copenhagen withdrawing, including launching a new bid process.

The 2022 Worlds are set for Liverpool, Great Britain, and 2023 in Antwerp, Belgium. Denmark will look into bidding to host in 2025.

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Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles headline Inspiration Games; TV, stream info

Allyson Felix, Noah Lyles
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In Allyson Felix‘s 17 years on the senior international level, she has never experienced anything like what Thursday will bring.

Felix, a nine-time Olympic medalist, will line up at a track in California to race 150 meters. Her opponents will be on the other side of the country — Bahamian Shaunae Miller-Uibo in Florida — and the other side of the Atlantic Ocean — Swiss Mujinga Kambundji in Zurich.

The Inspiration Games air live on Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app. The meet is a repurposed version of a Diamond League stop in Zurich, Switzerland.

“I’ve just been training and training and training, so anything to break it up. … this seemed like something great. I just loved the concept,” said Felix, who memorably raced alone in at the Rio Olympics in a re-run of the 4x100m first round. “I’m not really sure what to expect. I think [it’s] the first time that we’ve all done anything like this. I’m just approaching it to have fun and hopefully give people something to watch and to be entertained by. I think we all miss sports so much.”

Meet organizers had to get creative with the coronavirus pandemic limiting athlete travel and group events. The Impossible Games was first to go on June 11 — in an Oslo stadium with few spectators and even fewer athletes (and others competing in different countries).

The Inspiration Games takes virtual competition to another level. Felix, Miller-Uibo and Kambundji are all slated to sprint at the same time in different locations. As are world champion Noah Lyles, Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre and the Netherlands’ Churandy Martina in a later 200m.

It marks the first meet since the coronavirus pandemic for Felix, bidding to make her fifth Olympic team and first as a mom. The pandemic and restrictions in California forced her to train on streets.

“Everything is still pretty much locked down,” she said. “You can’t get onto a track without jumping a fence.”

Felix admitted she’s “definitely not sharp” going into her first race since February.

“Once we knew for sure that the Olympic Games would be postponed, we really had to think about being at our best a year from now,” said Felix, a 34-year-old bidding to break Michael Johnson‘s record as the oldest Olympic 400m medalist. “In my situation and where I’m at in my career, I had to make some adjustments, just with the level of impact on my body so that I could still be able to continue to train, but to save something and to have that one last time to be at my best next year. I definitely think things have shifted now.”

Lyles raced last Saturday at a small meet in Florida, outsprinting Justin Gatlin in a 100m heat (9.93 seconds to 9.99 with a hefty four meter/second tailwind).

The regular Diamond League calendar is scheduled to resume in August.

Here are the Inspiration Games entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:35 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
1:35 — Women’s Pole Vault
2:05 — Men’s Triple Jump
2:10 — Women’s 150m
2:27 — Men’s 100 Yards
2:41 — Women’s 300m Hurdles
3:06 — Men’s 200m
3:20 — Women’s 3x100m Relay

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 1:35 p.m.
Greek Katerina Stefanidi, a Stanford grad, and American Sandi Morris renew their rivalry. Stefanidi will be in California. Morris will be in Florida. Swede Angelica Bengtsson rounds out the field. Stefanidi relegated Morris to silver at the 2016 Olympics and 2017 Worlds. But Morris snapped’ Stefanidi’s streak of eight straight wins in their head-to-head back in 2018 and has bettered Stefanidi in four of their last six meetings.

Men’s Triple Jump — 2:05 p.m.
Double Olympic champion Christian Taylor takes on longtime rival Pedro Pablo Pichardo, a Cuban-born Portuguese, and American Omar Craddock. Taylor bettered Pichardo in five of their last six meetings. In more than 30 meets together, Taylor has lost to Craddock just once (when Taylor has competed in full).

Women’s 150m — 2:10 p.m.
Felix and Miller-Uibo go head to head for the first time since the 2017 World Championships. Their most memorable duel came at the Rio Olympics, where a diving Miller-Uibo edged Felix by .07 for 400m gold. While Miller-Uibo and Felix primarily compete over a full lap, the 150m is closer to Kambundji’s wheelhouse. The Swiss earned 200m bronze at the 2019 World Championships, taking advantage of a depleted field.

Men’s 100 Yards — 2:27 p.m.
Triple Olympic medalist Andre De Grasse of Canada, Olympic 110m hurdles champion Omar McLeod of Jamaica and French veteran Jimmy Vicaut all train in Florida and will presumably be racing at the same venue on Thursday. The 100 yards is scantly contested in top-level meets. Nobody has broken nine seconds in a 100-yard (91.44-meter) race, according to World Athletics. But Usain Bolt‘s estimated 100-yard time en route to his 2009 world record in the 100m was 8.87 seconds.

Men’s 200m — 3:06 p.m.
Lyles has lost an outdoor 200m just once in this Olympic cycle and wouldn’t normally be pestered by Lemaitre or Martina, but these are unusual times and this an unusual competition. Lemaitre is the Olympic bronze medalist but was sixth at last year’s French Championships. Martina, 36, and, like Lemaitre, hasn’t broken 20 seconds in more than three years.

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