Simone Biles wins every gold medal at U.S. Championships

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BOSTON — All the gold medals for Simone Biles.

Biles, in the second meet of her comeback, won her record fifth U.S. all-around title and swept the four apparatus titles, combining scores from Friday and Sunday at TD Garden.

She never thought it would be possible, but she also wants to work on pre-meet nerves, consistency and confidence.

“I’d give it a B-plus,” Biles told Andrea Joyce on NBC.

The four-time Rio Olympic gold medalist became the first woman to win all five golds at the national gymnastics championships since Dominique Dawes in 1994.

She won the all-around by 6.55 points over 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd, the largest margin since the perfect-10 system was thrown out in 2006. That gap is larger than that separating Hurd from the 11th-place gymnast.

“I knew I was capable of [scoring this well], but I kind of thought I was going to be a nervous wreck and maybe fall apart,” said Biles, who wore a teal mint leotard in part to stand with fellow Larry Nassar sexual-abuse survivors (teal ribbons were worn at NCAA meets in the winter and spring). “Going into these events, I know I kept telling my family like I don’t know if I’m going to be able to calm myself down the way I did before and handle the nerves, but so far, so good.”

Biles led by 3.1 points after a dominant first day Friday.

At 21, she is the first non-teen to win the U.S. women’s all-around since 1971.

“She’s just in another league almost,” third-place Riley McCusker said. “I’m honestly just in awe of her.”

GYMNASTICS NATIONALS: Results | Biles explains teal leotard meaning

After Rio, Biles took 14 months before returning to training last November under new coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi. She returned to competition three weeks ago, winning the U.S. Classic with an uneven bars fall.

No falls over two days at nationals. Just three floor exercise passes that went out of bounds (because of Biles’ otherworldly tumbling power), plus small errors on uneven bars and balance beam Sunday. Biles won her first national title on uneven bars, the only event on which she did not earn a medal in Rio or at any world championships.

Before Biles, the Landis were known for coaching Madison Kocian to uneven bars silver in Rio. Laurent Landi recognized perhaps the biggest obstacle in Biles’ comeback is not among her competition or any apparatus, but between the ears.

“To handle the pressure, to handle the media, to handle everybody, all the expectation, that’s mentally draining,” he said.

Biles has repeated this spring and summer that she feels like a better gymnast than in Rio. The Texan is on a five-year win streak with the only end in sight being her planned retirement after the Tokyo Olympics.

“Confidence-wise and consistency, I still think we have a ways to go to get back up to where I was in Rio, but gymnastics-wise, [better than in 2016],” Biles said. “I think I’m finally starting to get it and understand it. I’ve understood gymnastics for a while now, but I think it’s really sinking in.”

Biles is a shoo-in for October’s world championships team. The five-woman squad will be named after an October selection camp.

Hurd and McCusker are also in great position. Jade Carey, the 2017 World silver medalist on floor exercise and vault, could be a contributor on both events at worlds in Doha.

Ragan Smith, who won the 2017 U.S. all-around in Biles’ absence, is in danger of missing that team. She finished 10th in the all-around, competing with broken toes and lingering pain from an ankle injury that knocked her out of the 2017 Worlds, where she was the favorite.

No doubting who the favorite is this year. Biles owns the world’s best all-around score since Rio by more than two points. Could she sweep the gold medals as she did at nationals?

“It’s irrelevant,” Laurent Landi said. “I think you just need to do what she today … and see what we get at the end. We don’t aim to win. I think it’s bad to think about winning. I think it’s much more important to think about what she needs to accomplish for herself. If at the end she wins, then she wins.”

Aly Raisman, who staged her own successful comeback to make the Rio Olympics, told Biles on Saturday night that she’s not human. Biles was asked Sunday what her international competitors must be thinking.

“Maybe that I should probably quit,” she said, followed by giggles.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Biles fell off the balance beam at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago. She fell off the uneven bars.

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GYM NATIONALS: Where Are The Final Five?

Bryan brothers to retire at 2020 U.S. Open, don’t plan on Olympics

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Bob and Mike Bryan said they will retire after the 2020 U.S. Open, ending a tennis career that’s included a men’s record 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together.

They also don’t plan to play at the Tokyo Olympics, their manager later said in an email.

The twins are 41 years old, having spent more than half their lives as professionals.

“A part of us, feels like, is dying,” Bob Bryan said on Tennis Channel. “But we’re really clear about this decision. It’s going to be great to have a finish line.”

Mike said that in 2020 they will play all the events they “really love,” including all four Grand Slams and American tournaments. The Olympics weren’t mentioned.

Rather, they will see how they’re feeling midway through the year, they said on the Tennis.com podcast.

The Bryans earned doubles gold at the 2012 London Games but withdrew from the Rio Olympics six days before the Opening Ceremony. They cited making their family’s health a “top priority” and later said Zika virus concerns were “a very small part of” the decision.

The Bryans own 118 titles overall but nearly ended their partnership after Bob underwent hip surgery a year ago. He rejoined Mike this season, reaching the Australian Open quarterfinals and winning two ATP doubles titles.

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A century later, Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori can bring Japan Olympic tennis to forefront

Naomi Osaka, Kei Nishikori
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When Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori take the courts at the Tokyo Olympics, perhaps together, they will be doing so 100 years after tennis players won Japan’s first Olympic medals in any sport.

Tennis is not usually one of the handful of marquee competitions at the Games, in part because it is one of the sports whose biggest event is not the Games themselves.

“We have been playing for these Grand Slams, and I think that’s why we train for,” Nishikori said at the U.S. Open in August, when asked to compare the meaning of winning one of tennis’ four annual majors to earning a medal at a home Olympics. “That’s going to be the biggest goal to winning Grand Slams.”

Yet the term “Grand Slam” had not been conceived — for golf or tennis — at the time of the 1920 Antwerp Games. There, Ichiya Kumagae earned silvers in singles and doubles with Seiichiro Kashio to become the first Japanese Olympic medalists.

Kumagae was Japan’s first notable international tennis player, reaching the 1918 U.S. Open semifinals (then called the U.S. National Championships) and beating Bill Tilden in the final of the 1919 Great Lakes Championships.

Kumagae, born in 1890, had not seen a tennis racket or ball until his 20s, according to Roger W. Ohnsorg‘s “The First Forty Years of American Tennis.”

“He came here to America in 1916, the possessor of a wonderful forehand drive and nothing else,” Tilden wrote in “The Art of Lawn Tennis.” Kumagae was listed by Ohnsorg as 5 feet, 3 inches, 134 pounds and requiring glasses at all times. Later in 1922, Kumagae’s engagement to the daughter of a wealthy politician was published as a news brief in The New York Times.

Nearly a century later, Nishikori and Osaka brought more Japanese tennis breakthroughs. Nishikori became the first Asian man to reach a Grand Slam singles final at the 2014 U.S. Open. Last year, Osaka became the first Japanese singles player to win a Grand Slam, also at the U.S. Open.

This past June, Japan’s annual Central Research sports survey (1,227 people, age 20+) put Nishikori and Osaka as its respondents’ fourth- and sixth-favorite athletes, past or present. Baseball players Ichiro (retired), Shohei Ohtani and Shigeo Nagashima (long retired) and figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu rounded out the top five.

Osaka’s U.S. Open title was voted the top sports moment of Emperor Akihito’s reign from 1989 to April 30, beating Ichiro’s retirement and Hanyu’s repeat Olympic crown in PyeongChang. Perhaps there was some recency bias.

Akatsuki Uchida, a tennis journalist from Japan, said that Nishikori’s U.S. Open final was a bigger moment for Japanese tennis than Osaka’s win over Serena Williams, though.

“Tennis at that time [in 2014] was not broadcast in Japan,” she said at the U.S. Open. “Media coverage of tennis was decreasing before Kei made that final. For most of Japanese, not tennis fans, but ordinary people, it came from out of nowhere. … He became like an overnight sensation. Since then, the situation of tennis in Japan changed dramatically.

“If [Osaka] wins the title before Kei won the title here, it could have been way bigger, but since Kei made the final before Naomi, it made Naomi’s achievement, still a big deal, less surprising.”

Another key difference: Nishikori spent the majority of his childhood in Japan, while Osaka’s family, with a Haitian father and Japanese mother, moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old.

Osaka has dual citizenship, but Japanese law requires one to be chosen over the other by the 22nd birthday. Osaka turned 22 last month, before which she confirmed what most had assumed, that she picked Japan.

Uchida was unsure whether Osaka and Nishikori could propel tennis at the Tokyo Games into a greater spotlight among 33 total sports.

“But if Kei and Naomi played mixed doubles, that would be a big thing,” she said.

Nishikori has already reportedly said he plans to enter singles and doubles in Tokyo, the latter with Ben McLachlan, Japan’s top doubles player. McLachlan was born in New Zealand and in 2017 switched representation to Japan, his mother’s birth nation.

But Nishikori did not rule out adding mixed doubles.

“Very hot, very humid, playing singles and two doubles, I don’t know if I can,” he said before the U.S. Open. “I haven’t think too much yet, honestly. I don’t know. I will talk to Naomi later.”

Nishikori smiled as he brought up Osaka’s name at the end of his answer to a question that didn’t mention her. Later in the tournament, Osaka was told Nishikori’s thoughts.

“I would definitely play with him,” said Osaka, who in 2016 was the highest-ranked eligible player not to make the Rio Olympic field. “I just — I would actually need to practice doubles for the first time in my life. Because you cannot play mixed doubles with Kei Nishikori and lose in the first round of the Olympics in Tokyo. That would be the biggest — like, I would cry. I would actually cry for losing a doubles match. Yeah, definitely I think that that would be so, like, historic in a way. And I would love to do it, but I need to practice my doubles.”

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