Simone Biles’ comeback begins where it all started; how to watch

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Simone Biles‘ first meet since the Rio Olympics is Saturday’s U.S. Classic in Columbus, Ohio, an event and a location tied to the gymnast’s beginnings.

Biles competes in the all-around in the tune-up meet for August’s U.S. Championships, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. NBC airs coverage Sunday at 2 p.m.

Biles was born in Columbus and lived there until age 3 before moving in with grandparents Ron and Nellie in Texas. Biles’ mother was battling drug addiction and unable to care for her and sister Adria.

The children briefly returned to foster care in Ohio before being officially adopted by Ron and Nellie at age 6 and moving to Texas for good.

Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the last time Biles started an all-around competition and did not win — at the 2013 U.S. Classic.

Biles, then 16, poorly prepared and flashing braces, fell on uneven bars and floor exercise and barely stayed on the balance beam before being pulled from vault by then-coach Aimee Boorman.

Biles began regularly seeing a sports psychologist and won her first U.S. and world all-around titles the next two months. That started an undefeated streak that ran through Rio, where she earned four gold medals in the most successful Games ever for a U.S. female gymnast.

Though Biles has been out of competition for nearly two years, she is planning to perform her most difficult floor and bars routines yet on Saturday, said one of her coaches, Laurent Landi.

Biles said in April, just five months into her return to training, that she already felt like a better overall gymnast than in Rio. Landi padded that in a Wednesday interview, saying that Biles’ overall difficulty is greater than it was in 2016. What we’ll see on Saturday is whether the execution in competition is near the same standard.

“She’s nervous because it’s been two years,” Landi said. “She’s excited because she’s ready to go and do the job.

“She followed the right preparation. She’s in shape. She’s mentally and physically prepared. I just want to see how she reacts.”

Biles originally planned to compete on two events at the U.S. Classic but announced earlier this month that she was all-in for the all-around, a sign that her confidence is soaring.

“She’s ready to do it [the all-around], and she needs more reps,” Landi said. “She’s going to only have this U.S. Classic and the [U.S.] Championships [in August], so pretty much two meets before world champs [in October], so I want her to get experience and know how it feels under pressure to do these routines.”

Biles will compete against reigning world all-around champion Morgan Hurd and national champion Ragan Smith, though some gymnasts opt not to do all four events at this meet.

Biles returned to training Nov. 1 under Landi and his wife, Cecile, at her parents’ gym in Texas. Boorman, who had coached Biles since age 7, moved from Texas to become executive director at a Florida gym shortly after the Rio Games. Biles and Boorman remain close.

A strong return on Saturday will set Biles up well for the U.S. Championships in four weeks in Boston. She can win a record-breaking fifth U.S. women’s all-around title.

The world championships are in Doha in October, when Biles could become the first woman to win four world all-around titles.

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Dmitriy Balandin, surprise Olympic swimming champion, retires

Dmitriy Balandin
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Dmitriy Balandin, the Kazakh swimmer who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 Rio Olympics, retired at age 27.

“Today I would like to announce the end of my sports career,” Balandin said last week, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee. “I am still inspired. A new phase of my life begins. I have a lot of cool projects in my head that will soon be implemented.”

Balandin reportedly has coaching aspirations.

In 2016, he won the Olympic men’s 200m breaststroke out of lane eight as the last qualifier into the final. He edged American Josh Prenot by seven hundredths of a second and became Kazakhstan’s first Olympic swimming medalist.

He followed that up with 11th- and 17th-place finishes in the breaststrokes in Tokyo last year.

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U.S. women’s basketball team scores most points in FIBA World Cup history

Brionna Jones
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SYDNEY — A’ja Wilson and the U.S. put on quite a show, breaking the World Cup scoring mark in a record rout of South Korea.

Brionna Jones scored 24 points and Wilson added 20 to help the U.S. beat South Korea 145-69 on Monday. Shakira Austin’s layup with 9 seconds left helped the Americans break Brazil’s record of 143 points set in 1990.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a team that can score the basketball like this,” Wilson said. “This is crazy, we put up 145 points. I think when you look at us and just knowing how talented we are, we just came together and we play together very, very well.”

The U.S. always has the most talented and deepest roster of any team in the World Cup with 12 WNBA stars on the roster. Still, the Americans had never come close to that sort of offensive output during it’s storied World Cup history. The previous team record was 119 points against Angola in 2014 and China in 2006. The scoring margin was also the biggest in U.S. history as well surpassing the 75-point win over Angola in 2014.

The win was also the 26th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals when they fell to Russia. The U.S. also won 26 in a row from 1994-2006. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-1986.

MORE: FIBA World Cup Results

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Breanna Stewart and Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon.

The U.S. (4-0), which has been playing stellar defense, was challenged by South Korea early. The teams were trading baskets for the first 8 minutes and it was tied at 21 before the Americans took control, scoring the final 11 points of the period.

Kahleah Copper came off the bench for the first time of the tournament and scored six points during that spurt. The Americans kept the streak going to start the second quarter, scoring nine of the first 11 points to put the game away.

By the time the game reached the half the U.S. was up 68-40, including scoring 44 points in the paint against the undersized Koreans.

“We were trying to get the ball inside,” Jones said. “We had an advantage there.”

The only suspense in the second half was how many records the Americans could break. They took down their own scoring mark on Sabrina Ionescu’s 3-pointer with 6:15 left in the game and kept putting up points with Austin’s layup capping off the contest.

Other records broken on Monday included the 62 field goals made, 36 assists and 94 points in the paint.

“Our size was a problem for them and I thought we shared the ball,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The Americans were well rested for the game after having their first day off of the tournament on Sunday.

Despite the rout, South Korea (1-3) can still advance to the quarterfinals with a win over Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Leeseul Kang, who had 37 points in a win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, scored 10 points. Hyejin Park had 17 to lead the team.

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