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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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Brigid Kosgei beaten as another world record smashed in Nike shoes

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Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh broke the half marathon world record by 20 seconds, beating new marathon world-record holder Brigid Kosgei in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Nike-sponsored runners lowered the men’s and women’s marathon and half marathon records since September 2018, each appearing to race in versions of the apparel giant’s scrutinized Vaporfly shoes.

Yeshaneh, a 28-year-old who finished 14th in the 2016 Olympic 5000m, clocked 1:04:31 for 13.1 miles to better Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei‘s world record from 2017.

Kosgei, a 26-year-old Kenyan, also came in under the old world record but 18 seconds behind Yeshaneh.

Kosgei took 81 seconds off Paula Radcliffe‘s 16-year-old women’s marathon world record on Oct. 13, clocking 2:14:04 to win the Chicago Marathon.

Nike Vaporfly shoes, including the prototypes worn by Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge when he ran a sub-two-hour marathon, were deemed legal by World Athletics’ new shoe regulations last month, according to Nike.

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Olympic, world champion lugers pull out of World Cup event over safety

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U.S. Olympic silver medalist Chris Mazdzer and other top lugers are skipping this weekend’s World Cup stop in Winterberg, Germany, citing unsafe track conditions and a growing frustration with the international federation over athlete concerns.

“This was brought to the attention of the FIL [International Luge Federation] and yet again we were told that everything is ok,” was posted on Mazdzer’s Instagram. “I realize that a boycott is a lose-lose situation and there are no winners. But I have no other option at this point. I feel personally that this track is not safe for doubles sleds or for athletes who do not have adequate numbers of runs.”

Mazdzer said by phone Friday that he noticed significant bumps on the track in his first training run earlier this week.

“I couldn’t drive because I’m being thrown everywhere,” he said. “When you’re going 130 kilometers an hour [80 miles per hour], you don’t really want the track to be bad.”

An FIL spokesperson said Friday that Mazdzer’s choice was “his individual decision” and declined further comment ahead of races scheduled Saturday and Sunday. Mazdzer said that he was told the race starts will be moved down.

USA Luge said in a Friday statement that it will not participate in the World Cup and would communicate its concern for athlete safety to the FIL.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Summer Britcher said she was boycotting via Instagram, calling it “a farce of a World Cup.” Top lugers said athletes suffered serious injuries in training runs.

“I love this sport, but after too many decisions too many times that disregard 1-the safety of the athletes, and 2- the integrity and fairness of our sport, I have grown a great disdain for the International Luge Federation, and those who make these decisions,” was posted on Britcher’s account. “I will not race this weekend. I do not believe the track is safe, I do not believe it has been prepared to a World Cup standard, and I do not believe that the International Federation and Winterberg World Cup organisers should get away from this with no consequences.”

Britcher’s post noted that her team notified coaches and the technical director that the track was unsafe after her first training run Wednesday.

“Our concerns, and the concerns of the rest of the athletes from other nations throughout the day were not taken seriously,” Britcher posted.

Britcher said that several coaches attempted to fix the track for several hours on Thursday after athletes refused to train.

Olympic champion David Gleirscher of Austria and World Cup standings leader Roman Repilov of Russia and the top doubles teams of Toni Eggert and Sascha Benecken and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt of Germany also posted on Instagram that they’re skipping the Winterberg World Cup, the penultimate stop of the season, for safety reasons.

Mazdzer estimated a 20 percent crash rate in training, but that the track condition has improved since Wednesday. He still plans to race next week at the last World Cup in Königssee.

“There’s a lot of problems with Winterberg,” he said after detailing the situation between athletes and the FIL, “and it’s not just the track.”

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