Simone Biles details comeback, new campaign

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Simone Biles has a new coach, will return to full-time gymnastics training on Nov. 1 and plans to compete in 2018.

“Probably Classics [a pre-nationals tune-up in July], but not doing all events, probably two [of four apparatuses]” Biles said in a phone interview Thursday. “I would still be training all four events at Classics, but only competing two, just to get back into that competition mode. Then the goal is P&Gs [Championships in August] to compete all [events], obviously, and then continue from there.”

Biles’ other announcement Thursday was her partnership with the #BeUnderstood campaign for Learning Disabilities and ADHD Awareness Month in October.

She recently spoke with two sisters (video here) who have ADHD about her own experience with ADHD since age 9.

Biles’ globetrotting will stop in November as she focus on training, but she will still be spreading this message.

“I think I’ll be speaking a little bit more about it, just because a lot of kids have it,” she said. “I think that they think of it as a disability, and I want them to learn that it’s not. … I told [the sisters] to think of it more as a super power. It’s OK to be different because many smart and talented people have it, and they still succeed in life to the fullest.”

Biles hasn’t competed since winning four gold medals in Rio but announced in August that she was doing light work in the gym. Her longtime coach, Aimee Boorman, moved from Texas to Florida. Biles will announce her coach later this month.

She laughed when asked Thursday if she will feel pain or soreness ramping up to regular training.

“It’s going to be rough,” she said. “But the muscle memory is there because I’ve come and I’ve played in the gym. All of my skills are basically still there. There are a couple of skills, like on [balance] beam, that I haven’t done yet, like a dismount, because why would I just chuck that? There’s no way. And I haven’t vaulted since the Olympics.”

But she has done every single one of her floor exercise passes, including her signature move, the Biles, on soft landing surfaces. And most of her skills on beam and uneven bars.

“But that’s going in and playing,” Biles said. “So, really tinkering down and being serious about it, mentality will have to change, but I’m excited.”

Biles will “probably” participate in a U.S. national team camp in January.

“Just to get back in the swing of things, even though I won’t be testing like other girls,” she said. “At least I’ll be back in the rhythm to just go in there and do whatever I need to do. And be with the national team coaches so they can get me up to date on all the new rules and everything.”

Biles does not want to rush a comeback for early 2018 competitions like the AT&T American Cup in March or the Jesolo Trophy in April.

Still, her plan to compete fewer than two years after the Olympics is a quicker return than previous U.S. stars.

Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman both went 2 1/2 years after the London Olympics before their competitive returns.

Nastia Liukin, the 2008 Olympic all-around champion, went nearly three years between competitions for her 2012 comeback. Shawn Johnson, the Beijing Games balance beam champion, returned in 2011.

Biles would return to the P&G Championships to face a field that includes a new U.S. champion — Olympic alternate Ragan Smith — and a new world all-around champion — 16-year-old Morgan Hurd.

Biles was not able to watch much of last week’s world championships live. She was traveling on the West Coast. But she received updates.

There are similarities between Biles and Hurd, both gymnasts to rise up in the post-Olympic year to claim the world crown. Biles did so in 2013, wearing braces, as Hurd did in Montreal last week.

“[Hurd] is still fairly young, and she handled the pressure because she’s never been on a stage like that,” Biles said.

Raisman and Rio beam silver medalist Laurie Hernandez both said they would return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run, too. But it’s unknown when they’ll be back in the gym.

For Biles, this timeline was always the goal.

“I never said, oh, take a year and then we’ll see, or maybe I need two years,” she said. “It was always just, I’m going to take one year, rest the body, physically, mentally from gymnastics and then get back into it.”

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VIDEO: Simone Biles explains returning to the gym

Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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