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

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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

Rewind: Australia’s Steven Bradbury gains gold and lasting fame after pileup takes out Apolo Ohno

Steven Bradbury
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Heading into the 2002 Winter Olympics, young American Apolo Ohno was a phenom with a legitimate shot at multiple medals in short-track speedskating.

The 1999 world junior champion and future “Dancing with the Stars” champion had finished first in the World Cup season standings in all three individual disciplines in the 2000-01 season. In the 2001 world championships, he took gold in the relay and the 3,000m (a non-Olympic event), silver in the 1,000m and fourth in the 1,500m.

Australia’s Steven Bradbury was at the other end of his career, enduring all sorts of misfortune in the years that followed — a 1995 accident in which he needed more than 100 stitches after a skate blade sliced his thigh, then a 2000 accident in which he broke two vertebra in his neck. 

The highlights of Bradbury’s career were relay world championships medals — gold in 1991, bronze in 1993, silver in 1994. He and his relay teammates also took Olympic bronze in 1994.

Bradbury barely advanced to one individual final, the 1,000m in 2002. He advanced from the quarterfinal when Canadian favorite Marc Gagnon was disqualified. He advanced from the semifinal when multiple skaters fell.

In the final, Bradbury was matched up against three outstanding skaters, including Ohno and Li Jiajun of China, who won this event and the overall title at the 2001 world championships. Ohno and Li had finished 1-2 in the 1,000m World Cup standings in 2001.

Bradbury couldn’t keep up. The other four skaters were in a pack, making dangerous passes among each other, while Bradbury fell further and further behind.

Those dangerous passes finally caught up to the rest of the field in the final turn. Li bumped into Ohno, which would lead to Li’s disqualification. After the lead pack jockeyed for position through the entire race, all four tumbled to the ice.

Bradbury, the last man standing, crossed the finish line first.

 

From the tangled pile-up, Ohno managed to fling himself, skate-first, across the finish line to take silver. Canada’s Mathieu Turcotte made it across for bronze.

Ohno wasn’t done in Salt Lake City. He won the 1,500m gold after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung, a controversial decision that made Ohno the object of South Korean derision.

Less controversially, Ohno won three more individual world championship events from 2005 to 2009, plus two relay golds, and the overall world title in 2008. In the Olympics, he took six more medals, including gold in the 500m in 2006 and silver in the 1,500m in 2010.

Bradbury missed the finals in the other two events in Salt Lake City, but his name lives on in the Urban Dictionary and elsewhere as a synonym for an improbable and even accidental victory. He embraced his unique place in history to carve out a career as a motivational speaker delivering more than 1,000 speeches in 19 countries, according to the International Skating Union and has even seen his win commemorated in Legos.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier form new figure skating pair

Brandon Frazier
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A few weeks after her husband and skating partner, Chris Knierim, stepped away from competitive figure skating, Alexa Scimeca Knierim has a new partner.

Brandon Frazier, who was also looking for someone to form a new pair after longtime partner Haven Denney stepped away from competition, at least temporarily, will join Scimeca Knierim on the ice whenever they’re able to train and compete again.

Frazier is a longtime friend of Chris Knierem. Scimeca Knierim told U.S. Figure Skating’s FanZone that Frazier had played a pivotal role in kindling the Knierem’s off-ice romance.

Denney and Frazier won the U.S. championship in 2017 and finished 20th in the world championships that year. They finished third in their two Grand Prix assignments last fall — Skate America and the Internationaux de France. They were runners-up in the 2019 U.S. championships and fifth this year, when they revived their “Lion King” free skate.

The Denney-Frazier pair took an unusual path to figure skating, starting as roller skaters.

The Knierims won their third U.S. championship in January but handed their slot in the world championships to Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson when Chris Knierim, struggling with his form and depression, decided he was unable to continue beyond the Four Continents Championship. The world championships were later canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.

READ: Resilient Knierims withdraw from world championships

The couple had earned attention for their romance and for their inspirational returns from illness and injury. Their U.S. championship win earlier this year was their third.

Skate America, the first event on the Grand Prix circuit, is scheduled to start Oct. 23 in Las Vegas.

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