Simone Biles opens Olympic year with dominating Pacific Rims title

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EVERETT, Wash. (AP) —€” Simone Biles began her preparations for the Rio Olympics in dominant fashion Saturday night in the Pacific Rim Championships, winning the all-around title to lead the U.S. women to the team title.

The 19-year-old Biles, the three-time World all-around champion, finished first in the vault, balance beam and floor routine, and third in the uneven bars to win the all-around title with 62.45 points in her season debut.

Biles has won 11 straight all-around competitions dating to 2013, dwarfing streaks from past Olympic champions Gabby DouglasNastia LiukinCarly Patterson and Mary Lou Retton and every other U.S. gymnast in that span.

Aly Raisman, a three-time medalist at the 2012 Olympics who struggled last year in the World Championships, finished second at 59.90.

The U.S. swept the top five spots against a weak field. Fifteen-year-old Laurie Hernandez was third, followed by Brenna Dowell and Ragan Smith.

The U.S. won all four events en route to a team score of 243.200. Canada was second at 219.100, followed by Australia at 217.850.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air Pacific Rim Championships coverage on Sunday from 1-3 p.m. ET.

Biles was pleased with the floor routine, which drew a tremendous response from the crowd.

“I felt like it was pretty good,” Biles said. “I’ll go back and look at the video to see, but there’s still things to improve in the floor routine definitely, but you have to start somewhere and it’s good that I still have things to improve.”

She also was satisfied with her second vault, called the Cheng after three-time World champion Cheng Fei of China.

The vault, which Biles said she has performed well in practice, requires her to do a round off onto the board, followed by a back handspring with a half-twist onto the vault before finishing with 1 1/2 twists while simultaneously doing a layout.

“That was the first time I ever competed it, so it was good to get that out of the way,” Biles said. “For the first time competing it, I’m fairly happy with it.”

National team coordinator Martha Karolyi was pleased with Biles’ efforts, as well as those of the entire team.

“For her, it was very important to see if she’s able to perform her second vault,” Karolyi said. “That was really one of our goals, even before the World Championships. We planned on this and it was important to debut and do it.

“For anybody, it is a challenge to add a high difficulty new skill,” Karolyi added. “Also, she had new choreography on the floor. All these competitions are very important for us to make sure we introduce this new stuff early, so with time it comes with much more confidence and is more normal. The first time you maybe have a little jitters to make sure you will be able to perform, but she passed the test.”

Karolyi also was pleased with the performance of Raisman, who took almost two years off following the London Olympics.

“After the World Championships, she looked too hyper and a little bit out of control, which was unusual for her,” Karolyi said. “Our main goal was to calm her down and I think we achieved the goal. She looked very composed and very much in control of what she’s doing.”

“Now, we have to go for things to perfect and we are in a good place,” Karolyi said. “I think she’s absolutely on the right track.”

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Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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