Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas ease into Olympic selection meets at Secret Classic

Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas
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HARTFORD, Conn. — Simone Biles will not win the Secret Classic. Neither will Gabby Douglas.

And that’s OK.

The world’s two best gymnasts are competing on half of the events at the Secret Classic rather than the all-around. U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi calls this meet the first step in the Olympic selection process but also a “warm-up” for stars.

Biles and Douglas have Karolyi’s blessing to take it easy at the XL Center on Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Live Extra).

The more important meets are the P&G Championships in St. Louis from June 23-26 and the Olympic Trials in San Jose from July 8-10, after which the five-woman Rio team will be named.

“You don’t want to get extremely early into full competition shape, so maybe I would say this competition you have maybe 80 percent, and the [P&G] championships you go to 90 and for trials you have to reach 100 percent routine readiness and best shape and take that all the way through the Olympic Games,” Karolyi said Friday afternoon. “For the more established girls, more like a warm-up to get ready for championships. For certain other gymnasts, they really have to prove themselves, and this will give them an opportunity to do that.”

The “more established girls” definitely include the three-time reigning World all-around champion Biles and Olympic all-around champion Douglas, Karolyi said. Karolyi also said co-World uneven bars champion Madison Kocian could maybe be considered on that list, too.

Kocian, like Biles and Douglas, will compete only on uneven bars and balance beam Saturday. Kocian is still working her way back from a fracturing her left tibia in February. Biles and Douglas are holding back in Hartford.

“No need to do the all-around,” said Douglas, who won her first all-around title since the London Games at the AT&T American Cup on March 5. “It’s like a tune-up meet.”

Biles won’t try for a third straight Secret Classic title. She is undefeated in all-around competitions since after the 2013 Secret Classic, when she fell on uneven bars and floor exercise, barely stayed on the balance beam and didn’t attempt a vault.

Why are Biles and Douglas doing bars and beam and not floor exercise and vault Saturday?

“Those are the more stressful events,” Biles said of bars and beam. “You get out there, and you see how you react to the crowd.”

The all-around favorite on Saturday appears to be Aly Raisman, the Olympic floor exercise champion looking with Douglas to become the first women to make back-to-back Olympic teams since 2000.

“[My coach] doesn’t want my first meet all-around [in Olympic selection season] to be at [P&G] championships,” said Raisman, who did do the all-around at the Pacific Rim Championships in April. “He just wants me to get everything and make sure everything feels good.”

The top gymnast not in Hartford is Maggie Nichols, the only American to compete on all four events in the 2015 World Championships team final. Nichols is working her way back from arthroscopic knee surgery several weeks ago.

“She will be in the [P&G] championship,” Karolyi said. “She’s gradually adding the gymnastics skills. She did her rehab, and then she’s already on the level where she can do full bar routines. She can do the beam, almost, with exceptional skill. She is adding more and more tumbling passes to her [floor exercise] routine. She is on the right track. Hopefully everything goes fine and she just will be ready to compete again in time to prove herself that she will be an asset for U.S. gymnastics.”

MORE: 10 men to watch at P&G Championships in Hartford this weekend

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

Italy hosts the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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