Simone Biles
Getty Images

Simone Biles: I’ll be taking a year off, I think

Leave a comment

Simone Biles said Thursday that she expects to take at least one year off after winning four gold medals, and five overall, at the Rio Olympics.

“I will be taking a year off, I think, just ’til everything settles down, because now we have photo shoots and other opportunities that will come our way,” Biles said in a Sports Illustrated video interview. “It will be really hard for us to be in and out of the gym and train very serious during this time period. So afterwards, then we’ll see.”

Biles, 19, said in August that she would take an indefinite break, though she will participate in a USA Gymnastics tour of shows from Sept. 15-Nov. 13. Retiring U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said in Rio that Biles told her she wanted to take one year off.

Technically, Biles could go one year between competitions and not miss the biggest meets of 2017. The P&G Championships are Aug. 17-20, and the world championships in Montreal are in late September and early October next year.

None of the four previous U.S. Olympic women’s all-around champions competed in the world championships the year after their Olympic triumphs. Nastia Liukin came the closest, placing fourth on the balance beam at the 2009 U.S. Championships after a break, but withdrawing from world championships consideration before the team was named, citing not being in ideal physical shape.

If Biles sits out all of 2017, it will open the door for a new world all-around champion. Biles three-peated from 2013 through 2015.

The top contenders start with the three Americans who finished runner-up to Biles at major competitions in the last year — Olympic silver medalist Aly Raisman, world silver medalist Gabby Douglas and Olympic Trials second-place finisher Laurie Hernandez.

It’s unknown if any of the three will compete next year, but Hernandez figures to be the most probable, since she is 16 and Raisman and Douglas are in their 20s and coming off their second Olympics.

Internationally, 2014 World all-around silver medalist Larisa Iordache of Romania could challenge if she returns to form following an injury-plagued year. Russian Aliya Mustafina took all-around bronze at the last two Olympics, but it’s unknown if she will compete in 2017.

MORE: Biles’ longtime coach takes new job

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!