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Simone Biles eyes record, continues comeback at gymnastics nationals

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After Simone Biles won her comeback meet with the world’s highest all-around score since the Rio Games, she said most of her routines felt a bit off.

“We’ll just start over,” she said following the U.S. Classic on July 28, her first meet since Rio.

Biles returns this week for the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Boston. History is at stake.

The quadruple Olympic gold medalist can become the first woman to win five U.S. all-around titles, breaking her tie with Joan Moore Gnat since USA Gymnastics began crowning national champions in 1963.

Clara Schroth Lomady won six AAU all-around titles between 1945 and 1952.

Expect Biles to be better than at the U.S. Classic, where she fell off the uneven bars and actually trailed going into the last rotation.

She considered pulling out of the last event, balance beam. But an angry Biles mounted the four-inch-wide crucible and posted the highest score of the night by nearly a point.

“We still have a lot to go,” said Biles, who won by 1.2 points, comfortably extending her five-year win streak. “This was one stepping stone.”

Nationals is a stepping stone, too.

No woman can clinch a spot on the world championships team in two days of competition at TD Garden, but a selection committee will be watching.

The five-woman team for worlds in Doha will be chosen after an October selection camp, typically closed-doors. The top all-arounder at the camp clinches a spot. The committee picks the rest.

MORE: Gymnastics nationals TV, stream schedule

This week’s other all-around contenders:

Morgan Hurd
2017 World champion
2018 American Cup champion

The Harry Potter fanatic who competes in glasses was sixth at this meet a year ago. She was questionable at best to make the four-woman world championships team. But Hurd, coming back from elbow surgery, impressed at a closed-door selection camp to earn a spot at worlds. She then extended the U.S. streak of global all-around champions to seven years, following Jordyn WieberGabby Douglas and Biles. She was third at the U.S. Classic despite a balance beam fall.

Ragan Smith
2017 U.S. champion
2016 Olympic alternate

Smith was the 2017 World all-around favorite until suffering an ankle injury minutes before the final, forcing her to withdraw. The Texan coached by 1991 World all-around champion Kim Zmeskal returned to competition in March, then competed on three of four events at the U.S. Classic, posting the third-highest score on beam.

Riley McCusker
2017 U.S. bronze medalist
2018 U.S. Classic silver medalist

McCusker, from the same New Jersey gym as 2016 Olympic team champion Laurie Hernandez, missed 2017 Worlds due to injury. She returned to all-around competition at the U.S. Classic, where she led Biles going into the last rotation before finishing 1.2 behind.

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MORE: USA Gymnastics names new women’s national team coordinator

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned four years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)