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Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky impress each other

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RIO DE JANEIRO – Simone Biles and Katie Ledecky met for the first time in 2015, when they were nominees for the same award. Ezekiel Elliott won.

Biles and Ledecky, who have a combined five gold medals at these Games and could finish with nine between them, came to New York City in April 2015 for the Sullivan Award ceremony.The award goes to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the U.S. (the definition of amateur athlete is used loosely in choosing nominees). Past winners include Michael Phelps, Michelle Kwan and Tim Tebow.

Biles and Ledecky were nominated for their 2014 performances – Ledecky winning five gold medals at the Pan Pacific Championships and Biles winning a second straight world all-around title.

But the award went to the then-Ohio State running back Elliott.

“Ezekiel truly epitomizes what the AAU Sullivan Award is all about – leadership and excellence both on and off the field,” AAU President Dr. Roger Goudy said in a press release then.

Biles is from Texas. Ledecky from Maryland. They each made the New York trip during the middle of their seasons, got dressed up and did media appearances before the ceremony that ended up crowning Elliott (but honoring all nominees).Biles’ coach, Aimee Boorman, jokes about it now.

“We were like, what, seriously, all right whatever,” Boorman said with a laugh and a smile and no disrespect Friday morning.

Biles said she and Ledecky exchanged little more than polite greetings at that first meeting.

“Everyone’s pretty shy, even though you’re at the same place for the same reason,” Biles said. “So we barely talked, but then we saw each other in L.A. [at pre-Olympic media shoots], and that’s when we started talking.”

Congratulations, good luck at your next meet, stuff like that.

Then on June 11, the 4-foot-9 Biles actually mounted a swimming starting block at an indoor pool, had it filmed and tweeted it at Ledecky.

“Yes @Simone_Biles! Great technique! You are more than welcome on the @USASwimming team!” Ledecky tweeted back.

 

Ledecky has tweeted 747 times, including about once every 12 days in the last year. Biles has tweeted more than 7,250 times.

On Biles’ first day in Rio, she saw Ledecky in the athletes’ village, ran up and hugged her.

“Simone’s kind of animated,” Boorman said. “Katie’s kind of chill.”

Asked if she could compare anything about the athletes’ accomplishments, Boorman remembered walking behind two male and two female swimmers the other day. They were discussing how hard it was for the male swimmer to train with Ledecky, who has been known to beat men in practice.

Then the male swimmer asked how Ledecky will fare if she swims at Stanford starting next year (Ledecky has not turned pro, so she is still eligible for NCAA competition).

“I don’t know, because she needs to train with the guys just to have someone to push her, someone to challenge her,” Boorman remembered the female swimmer saying.

“So that says how dominant she is,” Boorman continued. “It’s funny, because I’ve heard male gymnasts talk about Simone that way. They get upset that she can tumble and vault better than they can.”

Ledecky will end her Olympics on Thursday night as an overwhelming favorite in the 800m freestyle. If she wins, she will become the third U.S. woman to win four gold medals at a single Olympics, joining Missy Franklin and Amy Van Dyken.

Biles gets Friday and Saturday off before returning for apparatus finals Sunday (vault), Monday (balance beam) and Tuesday (floor exercise). If she sweeps them, which is possible to probable, she will surpass Ledecky, Franklin and Van Dyken with five golds.

As impressive as that would be, Biles looks at what Ledecky does and gives a look of dread.

“I would drown for sure,” Biles said.

Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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Conseslus Kipruto tests positive for coronavirus, canceling world-record bid

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Conseslus Kipruto, the Olympic and world 3000m steeplechase champion, tested positive for the coronavirus without symptoms, which will keep him from a world-record chase on Friday, according to his social media.

The Kenyan was to race in the first in-person Diamond League meet of the year in Monaco on Friday.

“Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities,” was posted. “Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League.

“I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well.”

Kipruto, 25, is the 14th-fastest steepler in history with a personal best of 8:00.12. The world record is 7:53.63, set by Kenyan-born Qatari Saif Saaeed Shaheen in 2004.

Last year, Kipruto won the world title by .01, extending a streak of a Kenyan or Kenyan-born man winning every Olympic or world title in the event since the 1988 Seoul Games. He was sidelined by a stress fracture in his left foot until opening his season extremely late on Aug. 24.

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s road back through destruction, death

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Our World is going through a challenging period and we all have to take our responsibilities. Unfortunately my covid-19 test, as part of the Monaco-protocol, came back positive and therefore I can’t be part of the Monaco Diamond League on August 14th. I don’t have any symptoms and I was actually in great shape. I was planning to go for the WR: it has stayed too long outside Kenya. As the World & Olympic Champion I feel strongly its something I should go for as well. Wish to thank Monaco for all the work they have done and I wish them and my colleagues a wonderful competition. Athletics is back and I will be back as well. Anyone willing to organise a steeple once I can be cleared? @diamondleaguemonaco #nike #quarantine #WR #Kenya

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