Ten gymnasts to watch at P&G Women’s Championships

U.S. women gymnastics
Getty Images
0 Comments

Simone BilesGabby Douglas and Aly Raisman have proven they belong on the Olympic team. That decorated trio, plus several more Rio hopefuls, get another chance to impress a selection committee at the P&G Championships in St. Louis this weekend.

The five-woman Olympic team will not be announced until after the U.S. Olympic Trials finish in San Jose on July 10. But the P&G Championships mark an important precursor.

The competition format is the same as trials — four events each on two nights under the bright lights in front of the scrutinizing eyes of Martha Karolyi and the rest of the selection committee.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage Friday and Sunday at 9 ET both nights.

Here are 10 gymnasts with Olympic aspirations to watch in St. Louis:

Simone Biles
2013, 2014, 2015 World all-around champion

The world’s best gymnast, perhaps of all time, can become the first woman to win four straight U.S. all-around titles outright in 64 years. It would be absolutely stunning if she doesn’t. The Texan is arguably best in the world on balance beam, floor exercise and vault. Biles captured the 2014 and 2015 U.S. all-around titles in blowout fashion by an average of 4.6 points.

Gabby Douglas
2012 Olympic all-around champion
2015 World all-around silver medalist

Douglas is clearly the world’s second-best gymnast, which is remarkable given she went 31 months between competitions from the 2012 Olympics to her comeback in March 2015. If Douglas has any designs on challenging Biles at this meet, the U.S. Olympic Trials in two weeks or the Rio Games, she must upgrade her vault to the difficult Amanar, which she hasn’t performed in competition since the London Games.

Brenna Dowell
2013, 2015 World Championships team member

Dowell is the only NCAA gymnast on this list, and the Oklahoma Sooner makes it because her best event is the one generally viewed as the U.S.’ weakest — uneven bars. However, Dowell fell off bars at the 2015 World Championships and the Pacific Rim Championships in April, putting her behind younger gymnasts who also specialize on bars.

Laurie Hernandez
2015 U.S. junior all-around champion

Hernandez, born in 2000, is the highest touted of the gymnasts making their senior-level debuts this year. The last nine U.S. Olympic teams have included at least one woman who turned 16 years old or younger in the Olympic year, so Hernandez must be taken seriously. What must also be considered is her injury history, which grew with a knee strain that slowed her this spring.

Madison Kocian
2015 co-World uneven bars champion

If uneven bars is the U.S.’ biggest need, then Kocian’s gold medal from the World Championships is extremely valuable. However, she is coming off a fractured tibia from late winter. Kocian couldn’t walk for six weeks and didn’t vault or perform floor exercise at the Secret Classic three weeks ago.

Ashton Locklear
2014 World Championships fourth place, uneven bars

Locklear and Kocian may be vying for one possible Olympic team spot as the last two U.S. champions on uneven bars. Kocian beat Locklear at the 2015 P&G Championships, but Locklear had the edge at the Secret Classic three weeks ago.

Maggie Nichols
2015 World Championships bronze medalist, floor exercise

Nichols looked like an Olympic shoo-in last year, taking second to Biles in the P&G Championships all-around and being the only American to compete on all four events in the Worlds team final. But arthroscopic knee surgery kept her out of meets in early April and early June. She last competed at the AT&T American Cup on March 5.

Aly Raisman
2012 Olympic floor exercise champion, balance beam bronze medalist

Raisman had to be proud of her effort in winning the Secret Classic, just as she did four years ago. The 2012 Olympic team captain fell in the first 10 seconds of her first routine on uneven bars but recovered on her last three events. She punctuated the night with the meet’s highest vault score by landing the difficult Amanar. If Biles and Douglas are locks, Raisman is next in line.

MyKayla Skinner
2014 World Championships bronze medalist, vault

Skinner is the only active American besides Biles to make multiple World Championships event finals in this Olympic cycle. She was third on vault and fourth on floor in 2014. But Biles, Nichols and Raisman are all World floor medalists, and Biles and Raisman can both throw the difficult Amanar vault. Skinner faces tough competition to make a U.S. team in a three-up, three-count Olympic team final format.

Ragan Smith
2016 Jesolo Trophy second place, all-around

Smith is the least decorated gymnast on this list, but Karolyi has named her as one to watch this year. The 2015 U.S. junior all-around bronze medalist, she was second to Douglas in the Jesolo Trophy all-around in March, beating Hernandez, Skinner and Raisman.

MORE: Karolyi Ranch film to premiere on NBC

Summer McIntosh, Canadian teen swimmer, caps record year with another historic time

0 Comments

Summer McIntosh swam the fourth-fastest 400m individual medley in history on Friday, capping a year that already included world titles, Commonwealth Games titles and a victory over Katie Ledecky.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old Canadian whose mom swam at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, won the 400m IM in 4 minutes, 28.61 seconds at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C. She prevailed by a Ledecky-like 13.24 seconds, breaking her own national record that was previously the fourth-fastest time in history.

“It’s still pretty early in the season, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” she said on Peacock.

The only two women who ever went faster in the event known as the decathlon of swimming are Olympic gold medalists: Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu (world record 4:26.36 and 4:28.58) and China’s Ye Shiwen (4:28.43).

McIntosh has come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, she put all her eggs in the 1500m freestyle basket, thinking it was her best shot to merely qualify for the Tokyo Games in 2020. The one-year Olympic postponement was a blessing.

The rapidly improving McIntosh swam three individual events in Tokyo with a top finish of fourth in the 400m free, just missing becoming the youngest swimming medalist since 1996. She then told her coach she wanted to become an IMer.

At this past June’s world championships, McIntosh won two of the most grueling events — 400m IM and 200m butterfly — to become the youngest individual world champion since 2011. She also took silver to Ledecky in the 400m free, an event in which she later beat Ledecky in a short-course meet (25-meter pool rather than the 50-meter pool used for the Olympics).

A month after worlds, McIntosh swept the IMs at the Commonwealth Games, where she broke more world junior records and again took second in the 400m free (this time to Olympic champ and world record holder Ariarne Titmus of Australia).

McIntosh, who turned professional last year, now trains full-time in Sarasota, Florida, where she rents a house with her mom, Jill Horstead, who was ninth in the 200m fly at the 1984 Olympics (McIntosh, whose passions include the Kardashians and plants from Target, has seen video of her mom winning the B final at those Games). They’re a three-hour drive down Interstate 75 from Ledecky’s base in Gainesville.

Also Friday, Erin Gemmell celebrated her 18th birthday by nearly becoming the first American to beat Ledecky in a 200m freestyle in nearly nine years. Ledecky won by 42 hundredths of a second in 1:56.74 and said she had an off-day while also praising Gemmell, the daughter of her former coach.

NBC airs U.S. Open highlights on Dec. 10 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Kaillie Humphries begins trek to 2026 Winter Olympics with monobob World Cup win

Kaillie Humphries
Getty
0 Comments

Kaillie Humphries is off to a strong start to a four-year cycle that she hopes ends with her breaking the record as the oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

Humphries, the women’s record holder with three Olympic bobsled titles, earned her first World Cup victory since February’s Winter Games, taking a monobob in Park City, Utah, on Friday.

Humphries, the first Olympic monobob champion, prevailed by .31 of a second over German Lisa Buckwitz combining times from two runs at the 2002 Olympic track.

Humphries has said since February’s Olympics that she planned to take time off in this four-year cycle to start a family, then return in time for the 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Games. Humphries, who can become the first female Olympic bobsledder in her 40s, shared her experiences with IVF in the offseason on her social media.

“We’ve pushed pause so that I could go and compete this season, maintain my world ranking to be able to still work towards my 2026 goals, and we’ll go back in March to do the implantation of the embryos that we did retrieve,” she said, according to TeamUSA.org.

The next Games come 20 years after her first Olympic experience in Italy, which was a sad one. Humphries, then a bobsled push athlete, was part of the Canadian delegation at the 2006 Torino Games, marched at the Opening Ceremony and had her parents flown in to cheer her on.

But four days before the competition, Humphries learned she was not chosen for either of the two Canadian push athlete spots. She vowed on the flight home to put her future Olympic destiny in her own hands by becoming a driver.

She has since become the greatest female driver in history — Olympic golds in 2010, 2014 and 2022, plus five world championships.

Her longtime rival, five-time Olympic medalist Elana Meyers Taylor, plans to return to competition from her second childbirth later in this Olympic cycle and can also break the record of oldest female Olympic bobsledder.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!