Getty Images

Simone Biles’ first day of dance training leaves her in pain

Leave a comment

Laurie Hernandez gave Simone Biles one key piece of advice for “Dancing with the Stars.”

Take care of your feet.

Biles won’t forget that after leaving with blisters following her first practice with partner Sasha Farber on Thursday.

“My feet are like torn up,” the four-time 2016 Olympic gymnastics champion said Friday from Texas, where she was participating in Kellogg’s Buckets for Breakfast Challenge to raise money and awareness to end child hunger.

Biles is rehearsing for “Dancing with the Stars” near her Texas home for now, but plans to shift to Los Angeles soon. Hopefully, by then, the foot problems will be behind her.

For Biles’ first session, Farber said he would re-teach her “how to walk like a baby.”

“I was like, yeah, right, but that’s literally what we did,” Biles said. “We spent 15 minutes walking across the dance room. I was like, is this for real? Like, real life? But it’s a different technique and different style, so it’s a little bit harder.”

Biles’ feet started hurting before the practice ended, but she chose not to tell Farber.

“Tell Sasha,” Biles said Hernandez advised her, “and then wear tennis shoes the rest of the practice. If not, your feet will hurt the next day, and it’s just going to get worse.”

It marked a rare misstep for Biles, who is on a break from gymnastics this year after training in that sport since age 6. All four of the previous gymnasts on “Dancing with the Stars” finished in the top four, including winners Shawn Johnson and Hernandez.

Biles said she was invited to compete on the show last summer but had already committed to a nationwide USA Gymnastics post-Olympic tour. Unlike Hernandez, Biles said she couldn’t juggle both sets of shows.

Biles knew that after the gymnastics tour ended, she would tuck away her skills for all of 2017. She needed a rest, and that thought was reinforced by what happened with about eight or nine shows left.

At one tour stop, Biles felt her midsection crack while performing her eponymous skill on floor exercise, the Biles, or a double layout with a half-twist.

“I couldn’t breathe for a second. It knocked the wind out of me,” Biles said. “I was like, oh my god, it really hurt, but we were in the ending number. It’s like a five-minute number. So I had to keep going because I had like three more tumbling passes left. … But I knew something was really wrong.”

Biles said she visited medical personnel after the routine and was told she might have popped a rib out of place. She could barely walk or talk without it hurting. Still, she decided to finish out the tour without watering down her routines.

Biles said she “could barely move” after shows. After the tour ended, she remembered telling her mom in an airport, “I’m not being dramatic, but I think my rib is broken.”

Once home, she saw a doctor who confirmed the suspicion. It was healing fine, as Biles saw the doctor 2 1/2 weeks after she broke it. But she was told not do gymnastics while it finished healing.

Not a problem, as Biles had already said she wouldn’t compete in a meet in 2017.

She has shifted focus to the dance floor. The pain has moved, too, with the rib healed but the feet feeling on fire. Biles, who was home-schooled, has never danced with a guy before.

“I was actually weirded out how I wasn’t as nervous for the first rehearsal as I thought I would be,” Biles said. “I’m sure there will be some awkward moments … But we’re used to performing. So I don’t think that will change too much. It’s a different kind of performance. And we know how to handle our nerves, so that should be OK, too.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Raisman’s coach takes new job

Simone Biles
Simone Biles’ Snapchat

Kyle Dake repeats as world wrestling champ; next challenge: Jordan Burroughs

Leave a comment

Kyle Dake recovered from an unspecified freak accident that required surgery, and not wrestling in a meet for eight months, to repeat as world champion at 79kg, a non-Olympic weight class, on Sunday.

The next six months will bring another challenge — beating Jordan Burroughs for an Olympic spot.

“Every year I have a goal of being the best guy in the world. Last year, I proved it. This year, I proved it,” Dake told Trackwrestling.com. “I’ve got my work cut out for me, coming up.”

Dake, a four-time NCAA champion at Cornell who considered quitting after finishing second at U.S. trials year after year, is now in his freestyle prime. He backed up going unscored on at worlds last year by beating his four opponents in Kazakhstan this week by a combined 27-4, capped by topping Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov 4-2 in a final rematch.

Kid Dynamite is unquestionably one of the world’s best pound-for-pound wrestlers.

That was not the case four years ago. Then, an internationally inexperienced Dake moved out of the 74kg division, and up to 86kg for the Olympic year, to avoid facing Burroughs because Burroughs had a bye into the Olympic trials final as the reigning world champion. Dake ended up losing the 86kg trials final to J’den Cox, who on Saturday repeated as world champion himself.

The four-year difference would seem to favor Dake over Burroughs at April’s trials, where Dake has a bye into the semifinals and Burroughs into the final.

Burroughs, at 31 years old, is on the back end of his career. He just missed the finals of back-to-back world championships for the first time, though he came back for bronze medals. Burroughs has made every U.S. world or Olympic team at 74kg dating to 2011 and earned a medal every time, save his tearful Rio Olympic exit.

Dake, reluctant four years ago to detail his decision to move out of 74kg, determined before this week’s worlds that he would choose 74kg over 86kg (where Cox likely waits again).

“74 seems like a good spot for me,” Dake told Trackwrestling last month.

The number of weight classes drops from 10 at worlds to six at the Olympics, ensuring that at least two of these Americans will not make the Tokyo team:

Burroughs — 5x Olympic/world champion
Dake — 2x world champion
David Taylor — 2018 World champion (missed 2019 while injured)
Cox — 2x world champion
Kyle Snyder — 2x Olympic/world champion

Later Sunday, Snyder rallied from being upset in the 97kg semifinals on Saturday to snag a bronze medal with a 5-0 win over Georgian Elizbar Odikadze. A potential third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Abdulrashid Sadulayev was the most anticipated match of the championships, but Snyder was beaten one match early by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov.

Sadulayev, meanwhile, blanked Sharifov 4-0 to complete a 30-3 romp through his four matches to repeat as world champ.

“The hardest part about it I would say is just the fact that I didn’t get to wrestle Sadulayev again,” said Snyder, a Rio Olympic champion and a 2015 and 2017 World champion who shared bus and elevator rides with Sadulayev on Saturday and Sunday. “I felt prepared for him.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Jordan Burroughs: Time is running out

Israel is first nation to qualify for 2020 Olympic baseball tournament

Margo Sugarman
Leave a comment

Israel’s baseball team, which captivated at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is headed to its first Olympics next summer.

Israel won a joint European-African tournament to become the first nation to qualify for baseball’s return to the Games after the sport was voted off the program after Beijing 2008.

It joins host nation Japan. Four more countries will qualify — two at the global Premier12 in November, another from the Americas and one more from a last-chance qualifier next year.

Israel, ranked 19th in the world, advanced via its best opportunity in Italy this week. It upset the highest-ranked European nations — the Netherlands (No. 8) and host Italy (No. 16) — and wrapped it up with an 11-1 win over South Africa on Sunday.

Its run came two years after Israel, then ranked 41st, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba before bowing out of the World Baseball Classic. And one week after Israel finished fourth at the European Championship.

Israel’s roster at this week’s Olympic qualifier lacked many of the MLB veterans that it had at the World Baseball Classic. Israeli citizenship was not required at the WBC.

Its most recognizable player is Danny Valencia, an infielder who played parts of nine MLB seasons from 2010-18. Joey Wagman, its starting pitcher for its first and last games this week, plies his trade for the independent-league Milwaukee Milkmen.

MLB players are unlikely to feature at the Tokyo Games, but minor leaguers are expected to be eligible as in the past.

The rest of the Olympic field is likely to be nations from North America (such as the U.S., Cuba, Mexico or Canada) or Asia (South Korea, Chinese Taipei) or Australia.

Baseball will not be on the 2024 Olympic program but could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: USA Baseball taps longtime catcher to be Olympic qualifying manager