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

Weekend Gymnastics Roundup: Carey and McCusker on World Cup podium

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World medalists Jade Carey and Riley McCusker headlined gymnastics action over the weekend as the World Cup circuit continued with an all-around competition in Birmingham, England, and an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar.

Carey won both the vault and floor events in Doha, pushing her to the top of the standings on both apparatus (she also won the vault and floor competitions the previous weekend at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan).

Doha marked the halfway point of apparatus World Cups, putting Carey in a promising position to qualify for the Tokyo Games heading into the next four events. The apparatus World Cup series includes a total of eight competitions spread over two seasons, and one gymnast per apparatus will qualify for the Olympics based on his or her top three results across the eight events.

Carey, 18, was the 2017 world silver medalist on vault and floor. But she opted not to try for a spot on the 2018 World Championships team due to the International Gymnastics Federation’s rules that active team members who help their countries qualify team spots for Tokyo (as the U.S. women did in November) cannot earn individual spots. Carey, an apparatus specialist rather than an all-around gymnast, chose the World Cup route to keep open her options of qualifying individually.

McCusker, who was part of the U.S. team that won the world title last year, finished second at the all-around World Cup in Birmingham, posting the top scores on the uneven bars and floor. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist, won the event. Mustafina bounced back from a shaky showing last weekend at the World Cup in Stuttgart, where she finished fifth in an event won by Simone Biles. Mustafina, 24, is trying to qualify for her third Olympics after giving birth to daughter Alisa in June 2017.

The all-around World Cup circuit continues on April 7 in Tokyo, Japan, where two-time world all-around medalist Morgan Hurd and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak are expected to compete.

First Olympic women’s aerials champion Cheryazova dies at 50

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MOSCOW — Lina Cheryazova, the first woman to win an Olympic aerials skiing gold medal, has died. She was 50.

Officials in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where Cheryazova was living for the last two decades, said she died “following a lengthy illness,” without giving further details.

Competing for Uzbekistan, Cheryazova won gold with a triple flip when aerials skiing debuted on the Olympic program in 1994 in Lillehammer.

Shortly after winning, she learned her mother died three weeks before.

Cheryazova’s career was derailed later that year when she suffered a serious head injury while training in the United States, and spent days in a coma. She retired after failing to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics.