Nadia Comaneci

Nadia Comaneci: Simone Biles’ difficulty is almost equal to men

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Nadia Comaneci racked up airline miles last week, appearing at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai last Wednesday and the Tribeca Film Festival in New York on Friday, as she is the subject of a documentary.

The nine-time Romanian Olympic gymnastics medalist and first woman to score a perfect 10 at the Olympics discussed the sport today with OlympicTalk at the debut of her film, “Eternal Princess,” directed by Katie Holmes.

OlympicTalk: What’s changed with Romanian gymnastics, recently falling behind the U.S. and Russia?

Comaneci: It’s always the four big powers. The place has shifted, because the U.S. right now is dominating the world of gymnastics. But, you know, it’s always the U.S., China, Romania and Russia. When you think about it, in the United States, there are about four million kids who do gymnastics. In Romania, I think we have a total of 500 in the entire country. So, it’s a big base here [in the U.S.]. And 2,500 clubs to do gymnastics. That’s a lot to choose from.

OlympicTalk: What do you think of Simone Biles?

Comaneci: I don’t think anybody can top her right now, because she’s really, really, really good. It just has to do with how healthy she will stay, because it’s one more year until the Olympics. That’s still a long time.

OlympicTalk: Mary Lou Retton said Biles “may be the most talented gymnast” she’s ever seen. Do you agree?

Comaneci: I think she’s the best tumbler and [performing] more difficult gymnastics than we’ve seen. With how much ease she does the vault and the floor, and the difficulty she does there, it’s almost equal with what the guys are doing right now.

Editor’s Note: Biles does a Yurchenko with 2 1/2 twists on vault (an Amanar, which other women do). The most difficult version of that vault being done by a man is the Yurchenko with three twists. On floor, Biles opens with a double layout with a full twist. The hardest version of this skill from the men is the double layout with a double twist, which has been done by many men and for a while, according to USA Gymnastics.

OlympicTalk: Can [Romanian World all-around silver medalist] Larisa Iordache challenge Biles?

Comaneci: I think she can challenge her, because she’s good enough on four events. It’s the same thing, she needs to [stay] healthy to be able to compete.

OlympicTalk: When was the last time you were in Deva [the gymnastics capital of Romania]?

Comaneci: I was there a few years ago. It’s changed, but it’s still the mecca of preparation there. That’s where the gymnasts come from.

OlympicTalk: If you could change one rule in gymnastics, what would it be?

Comaneci: I would bring back the [perfect] 10 [scoring system].

Vitaly Scherbo weighs in on Kohei Uchimura

Chloe Dygert crashes over guard rail, fails to finish world championships time trial

Chloe Dygert
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American Chloé Dygert crashed over a guard rail and failed to finish the world road cycling championships time trial, where she appeared en route to a repeat title in Imola, Italy.

Dygert, who last year won by the largest margin in history as the youngest-ever champion, lost control of her bike while approaching a curve to the right. Her front wheel bobbled, and she collided with the barricade, flipping over into an area with grass.

Dygert, her legs appearing bloodied, was tended to by several people, put on a stretcher and taken toward an ambulance.

“All we know is that she is conscious and talking,” according to USA Cycling, about 25 minutes after the crash. “More updates to come.”

About 10 minutes after the crash, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen won her first time trial title.

Van der Breggen took silver the last three years behind Dygert and countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, who missed this year’s race after breaking her wrist last week in the Giro Rosa.

Dygert, 23, had a 26-second lead at the 14-kilometer time check of the 31-kilometer race. Full results are here.

Dygert qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when she won last year’s world time trial title. She has been bidding to make the Olympics on the road and the track.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s time trial airing on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold for Cycling Pass subscribers at 8:15 a.m. ET. A full TV schedule is here.

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MORE: USA Cycling names Olympic team finalists

Diamond League slate ends in Doha with record holders; TV, stream info

Mondo Duplantis
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The Diamond League season ends on Friday in the place where it was supposed to start — Doha.

Like many sports, track and field’s calendar was put in disarray by the coronavirus pandemic. The Doha meet, originally scheduled for April 17 to open an Olympic season, was postponed five months while other stops were canceled altogether.

Now, Doha caps an unlikely season that still produced stirring performances. NBCSN coverage starts at 12 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold also streams live for subscribers.

The headliner is Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, a leading contender for Male Athlete of the Year. Duplantis, who twice bettered the world record in February at indoor meets, last week produced the highest outdoor clearance in history, too, breaking a 26-year-old Sergey Bubka record.

Duplantis can mimic Bubka on Friday by attempting to raise his world record another centimeter — to 6.19 meters, or more than 20 feet, 3 inches.

The deepest track event in Doha is the finale, the women’s 3000m, featuring 3000m steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri and rising 1500m runner Gudaf Tsegay.

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

11:18 a.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
11:33 — Men’s 200m
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:08 — Women’s Long Jump
12:12 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:21 — Men’s 1500m
12:34 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
12:43 — Women’s 800m
12:56 — Women’s 100m
1:07 — Men’s 800m
1:18 — Women’s 3000m

Here are three events to watch (statistics via Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 11:18 a.m.
Duplantis looks to complete a perfect 2020 against his two primary rivals — reigning world champion and American Sam Kendricks (who went undefeated in 2017) and 2012 Olympic champion and former world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France. Kendricks was the last man to beat Duplantis, at those 2019 World Championships, and is the only man to clear a height within nine inches of Duplantis’ best this outdoor season.

Women’s 100m — 12:56 p.m.
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah looks poised to finish the year as the world’s fastest woman after clocking 10.85 seconds in Rome last week, her fastest time outside of Jamaica in more than three years. That’s one hundredth faster than countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce‘s best time of 2020. Thompson-Herah was fifth and fourth at the last two world championships after sweeping the Rio Olympic sprints. Like in Rome, her primary challengers in Doha are Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou and 2018 U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs.

Women’s 3000m — 1:18 p.m.
A meeting of titans in a non-Olympic event. Chepkoech is the fastest steeplechaser in history by eight seconds. Obiri is the fastest Kenyan in history in the 3000m and the 5000m. Tsegay, just 23, chopped 3.26 seconds off her 1500m personal best in 2019, taking bronze at the world championships to become the second-fastest Ethiopian in history in that event. In all, the field includes five medalists from the 2019 Worlds across four different events.

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