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

0 Comments

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

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
0 Comments

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
0 Comments

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!