Analyzing the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team

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The U.S. women’s gymnastics team in Rio is so decorated that it’s considered a slam dunk that it will repeat as Olympic champion for the first time.

The question is, can the Americans sweep all six gold medals?

The team includes world championships medalists on every apparatus, plus a first-year senior gymnast who is getting better with every competition.

Combine that with the recent decline of China (since its 2008 Olympic team title), Russia (since its 2010 World team title) and Romania (not even sending a full team to Rio).

A look at the credentials of all five gymnasts on the U.S. Olympic team:

Simone Biles
Three-time world all-around champion
Four-time U.S. all-around champion
14-time world championships medalist

The 19-year-old Texan is already the most decorated U.S. gymnast in world championships history, breaking Alicia Sacramone‘s record of 10 medals last year. Biles has not lost an all-around competition in more than three years and could win five medals in Rio to match a U.S. women’s gymnastics record. She has earned medals in the team event, all-around, balance beam, floor exercise and vault in every one of her world championships appearances.

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

Douglas took 31 months off from competition after London 2012, returning in March 2015 and improving as the year went on to finish runner-up to Biles at worlds. This year has not been as kind. Douglas was fourth at the P&G Championships and then, after a coaching adjustment, seventh at the Olympic Trials. It doesn’t look like she’ll have the chance to defend her all-around title in Rio but could be an asset in the team final on uneven bars.

Laurie Hernandez
2015 U.S. junior all-around champion
2016 U.S. Olympic Trials runner-up

Hernandez is the youngest member of the team and the first U.S. Olympic gymnast born in the 2000s. She is the breakout of 2016, competing on the senior level for the first time and rising to finish second to Biles at the Olympic Trials. She may be tapped to do the all-around in Rio but performed best on balance beam and floor exercise at Trials.

Madison Kocian
2015 World Championships co-uneven bars gold medalist

Kocian is on this team for one primary reason — uneven bars. It will likely be her only appearance in the team final. Kocian shared the world title on bars in 2015 with three other gymnasts. If the U.S. is to earn medals in every event in Rio (possibly golds in all), Kocian will be leaned on in that apparatus final for sure.

Aly Raisman
Three-time 2012 Olympic medalist
Four-time world championships medalist

The Olympic floor exercise champion is right with Hernandez for a potential second spot in the Rio all-around final behind Biles. A nation can qualify a maximum of two gymnasts into individual Olympic finals. It would be a sweet comeback for Raisman, who was motivated to return in part because she missed a 2012 Olympic all-around medal due to being on the wrong end of a tiebreaker. Expect her to be used on beam, floor and vault in the team final.

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Chloe Dygert crashes over guard rail, fails to finish world championships time trial

Chloe Dygert
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American Chloé Dygert crashed over a guard rail and failed to finish the world road cycling championships time trial, where she appeared en route to a repeat title in Imola, Italy.

Dygert, who last year won by the largest margin in history as the youngest-ever champion, lost control of her bike while approaching a curve to the right. Her front wheel bobbled, and she collided with the barricade, flipping over into an area with grass.

Dygert, her legs appearing bloodied, was tended to by several people, put on a stretcher and taken toward an ambulance.

“All we know is that she is conscious and talking,” according to USA Cycling, about 25 minutes after the crash. “More updates to come.”

About 10 minutes after the crash, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen won her first time trial title.

Van der Breggen took silver the last three years behind Dygert and countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, who missed this year’s race after breaking her wrist last week in the Giro Rosa.

Dygert, 23, had a 26-second lead at the 14-kilometer time check of the 31-kilometer race. Full results are here.

Dygert qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when she won last year’s world time trial title. She has been bidding to make the Olympics on the road and the track.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s time trial airing on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold for Cycling Pass subscribers at 8:15 a.m. ET. A full TV schedule is here.

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Diamond League slate ends in Doha with record holders; TV, stream info

Mondo Duplantis
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The Diamond League season ends on Friday in the place where it was supposed to start — Doha.

Like many sports, track and field’s calendar was put in disarray by the coronavirus pandemic. The Doha meet, originally scheduled for April 17 to open an Olympic season, was postponed five months while other stops were canceled altogether.

Now, Doha caps an unlikely season that still produced stirring performances. NBCSN coverage starts at 12 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold also streams live for subscribers.

The headliner is Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, a leading contender for Male Athlete of the Year. Duplantis, who twice bettered the world record in February at indoor meets, last week produced the highest outdoor clearance in history, too, breaking a 26-year-old Sergey Bubka record.

Duplantis can mimic Bubka on Friday by attempting to raise his world record another centimeter — to 6.19 meters, or more than 20 feet, 3 inches.

The deepest track event in Doha is the finale, the women’s 3000m, featuring 3000m steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri and rising 1500m runner Gudaf Tsegay.

Here are the Doha entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

11:18 a.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
11:33 — Men’s 200m
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:08 — Women’s Long Jump
12:12 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:21 — Men’s 1500m
12:34 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
12:43 — Women’s 800m
12:56 — Women’s 100m
1:07 — Men’s 800m
1:18 — Women’s 3000m

Here are three events to watch (statistics via Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 11:18 a.m.
Duplantis looks to complete a perfect 2020 against his two primary rivals — reigning world champion and American Sam Kendricks (who went undefeated in 2017) and 2012 Olympic champion and former world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France. Kendricks was the last man to beat Duplantis, at those 2019 World Championships, and is the only man to clear a height within nine inches of Duplantis’ best this outdoor season.

Women’s 100m — 12:56 p.m.
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah looks poised to finish the year as the world’s fastest woman after clocking 10.85 seconds in Rome last week, her fastest time outside of Jamaica in more than three years. That’s one hundredth faster than countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce‘s best time of 2020. Thompson-Herah was fifth and fourth at the last two world championships after sweeping the Rio Olympic sprints. Like in Rome, her primary challengers in Doha are Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou and 2018 U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs.

Women’s 3000m — 1:18 p.m.
A meeting of titans in a non-Olympic event. Chepkoech is the fastest steeplechaser in history by eight seconds. Obiri is the fastest Kenyan in history in the 3000m and the 5000m. Tsegay, just 23, chopped 3.26 seconds off her 1500m personal best in 2019, taking bronze at the world championships to become the second-fastest Ethiopian in history in that event. In all, the field includes five medalists from the 2019 Worlds across four different events.

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