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Simone Biles worried about burnout at gymnastics nationals

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BOSTON — Is Simone Biles‘ comeback saving gymnastics? She received plenty of feedback to that effect since her return last month.

“It’s both exciting but kind of scary because I don’t want them to be completely dependent on me for the sport to continue,” Biles said Wednesday at training for this week’s U.S. Championships (TV/stream schedule here). “It’s not fair to me, because I can’t carry the whole gymnastics world.”

Biles just about picked up where she left off at the U.S. Classic on July 28, winning her first meet since Rio with the world’s best score of this Olympic cycle. Despite a fall off the uneven bars.

She goes into nationals a clear favorite, looking to become the first woman to win five U.S. all-around titles.

“I feel so honored to compete with such a legend,” said Morgan Hurd, who was crowned the world’s best gymnast of 2017 by winning the world championships all-around in October in Biles’ absence. “I would hope that maybe one of us can come close to catching her.”

No question that Biles’ return is a shot in the arm for the sport. While she was away, Larry Nassar‘s decades of sexual abuse crimes were revealed, followed by changes in USA Gymnastics leadership.

Biles keeps focus on the gymnastics, at least for this week. That carries its own challenges.

“I felt a little bit more confident at Classics,” she said of the July 28 comeback meet. “I’m worried about the two-day competition [this week], not to burn out.”

The four-time Rio gold medalist said she’s competing on one toe that’s shattered in five pieces and another (on the other foot) that is cracked. That limited her floor exercise and vault training.

And then there’s what she said on social media about bronchitis. Just yesterday she returned to feeling normal for the first time in two weeks. She saw a doctor Tuesday and was prescribed medicine.

Biles could feel bogged down by the pressure or the health setbacks. But she remembers a mantra at her gym taken from Yoda.

“We don’t say try,” she said. “It’s do.”

Biles doesn’t plan to upgrade any of her routines from the U.S. Classic three weeks ago. Other podium favorites may look different.

Defending national all-around champion Ragan Smith will compete on all four events after doing three at the U.S. Classic. Hurd, who won the world all-around title after the favored Smith withdrew with an ankle injury, said she and others are closer to peak form.

Everybody is competing for places on the five-woman team for the world championships in Doha. But that team will not be chosen until after an October selection camp. That lightens the pressure, even if Biles might feel the weight of the sport’s world now and possibly through what she plans to be her final Olympics in two years.

“Say I make Tokyo, and I don’t walk away with as many medals, you know, I tried,” she said. “That’s all I can ask for from myself.”

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MORE: Morgan Hurd’s path to gymnastics gold began with 6-hour bus ride

Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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