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

U.S. Olympic, USA Gymnastics leaders set for another Senate hearing

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Recently replaced U.S. Olympic Committee acting CEO Susanne Lyons, USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry and Michigan State interim president John Engler are scheduled witnesses for a Senate subcommittee hearing next Tuesday on reforms following the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The hearing is titled, “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” and will stream live at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/ on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“The hearing will focus on changes made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG), and Michigan State University (MSU) to protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse,” according to the subcommittee’s website. “It will examine recent reforms to provide safe environments for athletes and how these reforms are being implemented.”

The subcommittee held hearings April 18 and June 5 with testimonies from gymnasts and other athletes who were abused, former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and former senior vice president of USA Gymnastics Rhonda Faehn. Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny also attended the June 5 hearing but refused to answer questions.

Lyons and Perry were questioned at a House subcommittee hearing May 23.

The USOC last Thursday named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, replacing Lyons, who had been in the role on an interim basis since Scott Blackmun resigned in February. Blackmun, who had been CEO since January 2010, left citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal.

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MORE: USOC names first permanent female CEO

Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course with epic comeback (video)

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Annemiek van Vleuten, the cyclist who returned from a horrific Rio Olympic road race crash to become world champion, repeated as La Course winner with an epic last-kilometer comeback on Tuesday.

Van Vleuten sprinted from several seconds behind countrywoman Anna van der Breggen to win the one-day race, including four categorized climbs, contested on part of the Tour de France stage 10 course later that day.

“With 300 meters to go, I still thought I got second, and then I saw her dying,” Van Vleuten said, adding later, according to Cyclingnews.com, “With 500 meters to go my team director in the car gave up and stopped cheering for me.”

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title, while van Vleuten returned quick enough to race at the October 2016 World Championships.

Van Vleuten, 35, won her first world title 13 months after the Rio Games, taking the time trial crown ahead of van der Breggen by 12 seconds. She also won the 10-stage Giro Rosa that concluded on Sunday.

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