Simone Biles routs Olympic champions for third straight P&G Championship

Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS — Martha Karolyi said five words to Simone Biles as she draped yet another medal around the neck of the 4-foot, 8-inch dynamo on Saturday night.

“That’s the Simone I know,” the longtime U.S. national team coordinator said.

One could disagree. Biles’ own assessment was that her performance on the second and final night of the P&G Championships was better than she’s ever known.

“So far, in my life, yes,” Biles said. “Hopefully, it will get better.”

Biles recorded her best-ever scores at a P&G Championships on three of four events to run away with her third straight U.S. all-around title.

“I just keep surprising myself, I guess,” she said.

Biles, the two-time reigning World all-around champion and the prohibitive favorite for Rio Olympic all-around gold, scored 124.1 total points and prevailed by 4.95 over best friend Maggie Nichols to become the first woman in 23 years to three-peat at Nationals. Full results are here.

Watch Biles’ routines: Floor exerciseBalance beam | Vault | Uneven bars

Olympic champions Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas were third and fifth, respectively, in their first Nationals in three years. Raisman said her primary feeling afterward was relief, while Douglas graded herself a B for the night.

Biles, an 18-year-old Texan, improved on her 1.4-point lead from the first night of competition Thursday with her best-ever P&G Championships scores on her first three events — balance beam (15.9), floor exercise (15.85) and vault (16.3).

She finished with a 14.95 on uneven bars (an apparatus she’s said in the past she would like to chainsaw) and bettered her winning margin from 2014 by seven tenths of a point. It marked the second-biggest winning margin in Nationals history, since the new Code of Points scoring system was implemented in 2006. Jordyn Wieber won by 6.15 points in 2011.

The last woman to win three straight U.S. all-around titles was Kim Zmeskal from 1990-92. In 2016, Biles could become the first woman to win four straight since Joan Moore Gnat from 1971-74. Biles has won nine straight overall all-around competitions dating to 2013.

“To be put next to Kim Zmeskal is really an honor, because I look up to her,” Biles said on NBC.

Biles is expected to lead a six-woman U.S. team to the World Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, in the last week of October. The full team will be announced following a national team camp at the Karolyi ranch in Texas in October.

Nichols, Raisman, fourth-place Bailie Key and Douglas appear headed for Worlds with Biles, but 2012 Olympian Kyla Ross has work to do. 

Ross, who won World all-around silver and bronze medals the last two years, finished 10th on Saturday. That continued a season of struggles.

“It was pretty scary to know that I made that last spot on the [10-woman] national team [from which the Worlds team will be picked] when, usually, I’m one of the top all-arounders,” said Ross, who along with Raisman and Douglas, is trying to become the first woman to make back-to-back Olympic teams since 2000.

Nichols, a Little Canada, Minn., native whose Twitter handle is @MagsGotSwag12, finished third at the 2014 P&G Championships and looked destined for her first Worlds team until dislocating her left kneecap the following week.

“I don’t really think I had a shot of beating [Biles],” Nichols said. “Standing next to her on the podium, that was an honor.”

Raisman improved 1.25 points from her Thursday night score and has finished third, third and fifth in the all-around in her three meets this year coming back from a two-year break from competition.

“I still feel kind of like a little junior [gymnast], like for the first time out there,” said Raisman, the Olympic floor exercise champion who fell off the balance beam Thursday. “It’s still pretty nerve-racking, and I still feel a little shaky.”

Douglas has placed fourth, second and fifth in the same three meets and struggled to stay on the balance beam Saturday but didn’t fall. She will return to her Columbus, Ohio, gym, hoping to increase difficulty on all four of her events before the World Championships.

“I have a plan,” she said, chuckling.

What could Biles possibly have to work on?

“I know it sounds like a baloney answer, but consistency,” said her coach, Aimee Boorman. “That’s what wins.”

The P&G Championships conclude with the final day of men’s competition Sunday (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra). Olympian Sam Mikulak leads by 2.35 points, seeking his third straight U.S. all-around title.

First U.S. Olympian born in 2000? It may be a gymnast

Chock, Bates charge to second U.S. title; Hubbell, Donohue charge the wrong way

Madison Hubbell, Zach Donohue
AP
Leave a comment

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Evan Bates, who had just won his second U.S. ice dance title with partner Madison Chock, put it best.

“Ice dance is a strange sport in some ways,” he said.

Chock and Bates have had their share of unusual mishaps in their near 10-year career, but on Saturday night at the 2020 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina, everything was smooth sailing.

The couple’s exotic “Egyptian Snake Dance” free dance went off without a hitch, gaining the highest possible levels for nearly all of its elements and impressing judges with its intricacy, synchronization and striking lifts. It earned 134.23 points, giving the Montreal-based team the win with 221.86.

“It was (our coach Marie-France Dubreuil’s) idea for me to be a snake, and Evan a traveler who finds me,” Chock said of the routine. “It was just such a fun process, cool new characters for us to dive into, and we’ve really been enjoying it. It shows when we skate.”

Greensboro has been lucky for the skaters, who teamed up in 2011; they won their first U.S. title here in 2015. The five-year title gap is the longest in history for U.S. ice dance champions.

“It feels longer than five years,” Chock said with a breezy laugh. “It feels so much has changed, and in us as people as well (as dancers). We’re in a very good place, we could not be happier with the way the season has been going.”

If Chock’s humor was lighthearted, Madison Hubbell’s can only be described grim.

Hubbell and her partner, Zach Donohue, trailed their long-time rivals and Montreal training partners by about 1.3 points following Friday’s rhythm dance. A stellar outing of their Star is Born free dance might have won a third consecutive U.S. title; instead, it became a living nightmare.

“Out of the first element, the dance spin, we got turned around somehow and came out the wrong direction,” Hubbell said. “The next four elements, which are pretty valuable elements, all were facing the wrong direction.”

(Video available here for NBC Sports Gold subscribers; Hubbell and Donohue skate at the 1:06:50 mark.)

Not until their fifth element, a step sequence, did the skaters get back on track. In between, there was a world of hurt, likely unnoticed by many members of the audience but readily apparent to the judges, who had seen the free dance in  practice.

“Our twizzle sequence, it’s a high-scoring element, is supposed to charge right at the judges, and today it charged away from them,” Hubbell said. “In the rotational life, there’s a large leg flare that looks very cool going the opposite direction, and today I just opened my crotch right in front of the judges.”

The score was far from disastrous; Hubbell and Donohue’s 130.88 points for their “wrong-way” free dance gave them 217.19 overall. But it was a missed opportunity to show judges, and fans, the improvements they had made to A Star Is Born since the Grand Prix Final in December.

“It was probably one of the hardest performances, and not the most enjoyable,” Hubbell said. “It was a really thoughtful focus on the elements, and somehow putting one portion of the brain aside to fix things as best we could.”

The silver medal was Hubbell and Donohue’s first. They also won bronze medals in 2012, and 2015-17.

Kaitlyn Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker, whose rhythm dance to Saturday Night Fever stole the show on Friday, felt their Flamenco-style free dance didn’t pack the same punch.

“Yesterday was such a high for us, in terms of (audience) reaction and performance, that tonight didn’t have the same euphoria when we finished,” Hawayek said. “Both Jean-Luc and I see the potential for it being much higher than what we were able to put out today.”

Despite the disappointment, the third team in the Montreal troika earned 118.57 points and won a second consecutive bronze medal with 201.16.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

NATIONALS: TV/Live Stream Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Coco Gauff eliminated from Australian Open by Sofia Kenin

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Coco Gauff‘s run at the Australian Open ended in the round of 16, foiled by fellow American Sofia Kenin on Sunday.

Kenin ousted the 15-year-old phenom 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-0 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Gauff, too, was bidding for her first major quarterfinal after a sterling seven months ignited by her march to the Wimbledon fourth round.

Gauff, ranked No. 684 this time last year, will near the top 50 after the Australian Open. She beat Venus Williams in the first round at Wimbledon and the Australian Open and took out defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka in the third round on Friday.

Gauff’s play catapulted her to fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying, but she has half the points as fourth-place Madison Keys, and a country can’t qualify more than four players in singles. The Olympic field will be determined by the WTA rankings after the French Open in June.

The 14th seed Kenin, who beat Serena Williams in the 2019 French Open third round, ranks second behind Williams in U.S. Olympic qualifying. She will face No. 27 Wang Qiang or Ons Jabeur in the quarterfinals.

Kenin and Alison Riske are the two remaining U.S. women in the draw.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!