USA Gymnastics
USA Gymnastics

U.S. women’s gymnastics team for world championships qualifying named

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As expected, Simone Biles must outscore a U.S. teammate to make the world championships all-around final.

The Olympic all-around gold medalist and three-time world champion is one of three U.S. women slated to compete on all four apparatuses in qualifying at worlds in Doha on Saturday. The top two out of Biles, 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd and two-time U.S. bronze medalist Riley McCusker advance to next Thursday’s all-around final.

Biles, Hurd and McCusker are joined on the U.S. women’s team for qualifying by first-year seniors Grace McCallum (floor exercise, uneven bars and vault) and Kara Eaker (balance beam).

Ragan Smith, the 2017 U.S. all-around champion who has struggled with injuries the last year, was named the alternate.

In Tuesday’s team final, nations are reduced to three gymnasts per apparatus, with all three scores counting.

MORE: World Championships TV Schedule

Biles, eyeing a female record-breaking fourth world title, is used to competition within the U.S. team just to make all-around finals.

In 2013, Biles and Kyla Ross outscored McKayla Maroney in worlds qualifying, then went one-two in the final.

In 2014, Biles and Ross made it ahead of MyKayla Skinner and Madison Kocian. Biles and Ross would share the podium again, this time with Ross taking bronze.

In 2015, Biles and Gabby Douglas kept Aly Raisman out of the world all-around final. In Rio, Raisman made it over Douglas. Both times, the U.S. went one-two in the all-around final.

Every time, Biles safely qualified in the No. 1 spot overall and at least 1.8 points clear of the No. 3 American.

Given that, the competition between Hurd and McCusker for the second U.S. all-around final spot should be among the most intriguing of qualifying.

Hurd outscored McCusker by. 55 between two days at the U.S. Championships in August. McCusker was second to Biles at a selection camp two weeks ago, two points better than Hurd.

Gymnasts also vie for apparatus finals spots in qualifying.

The top eight women per apparatus make each of the four event finals, maximum two per country. That’s where McCallum and Eaker can make their mark individually. McCallum was second to Biles on floor at the selection camp. Eaker had the top beam score in the selection camp all-around.

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MORE: Why world medalist skipped USA Gymnastics selection camp

Simone Biles returns to the gym, going from mental drain to physical pain

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For Simone Biles, this was supposed to be the stretch run of a legendary career.

Instead, she returned to her gym on May 18 with long-term thoughts of waiting 14 months until the Tokyo Olympics. And the immediate aches of a world-class gymnast who just missed nearly two months of regular training.

“After that amount of time off, it kind of sucks because your body hurts and then you get really sore,” Biles said in a pre-recorded ESPNW interview that aired Thursday. “So you just have to get back into the swing of things. But it felt nice to see my coaches, my teammates, and just to be back on the equipment and in the environment.”

In that same Texas gym three months ago, Biles had a far different outlook. One that would have put fear into any gymnast who still harbored ambition of ending her near-seven-year win streak.

“I never felt more ready this early in the season,” she said. “I was so ready for the Olympics to be this year.”

Biles repeated in interviews the last two months that the Olympic postponement to 2021 was devastating. Thoughts zig-zagged: How do I go on another year, at age 23, in a sport recently dominated by (but not limited to) teenagers?

“I’m getting pretty old,” she said in the interview published Thursday. “Will I be at the top of my game?”

Biles proved the last two years — after a year off — that she can win — and comfortably — while not at her best. She grabbed the 2018 World all-around title by a record margin — with two falls. Last year, she became the most decorated gymnast in world championships history. In Tokyo, she can become the first woman to repeat as Olympic all-around champion, and the only one older than 20, in more than 50 years.

This for a gymnast whose early goal was to earn a college scholarship. Biles did, to UCLA, but had to give it up by turning professional.

“So I’ve exceeded that,” Biles said. “And then I wanted to go to world championships and Olympics, and I’ve been to five worlds and one Olympic Games. So, I’d be more than happy [to walk away].”

After gymnastics, Biles has another goal — to be a voice for foster kids. She was in foster care multiple times before being adopted at age 6 by grandparents Ron and Nellie.

Those plans, along with so much else for Biles and so many others, have been pushed back a full year.

“I was already being mentally drained and almost, not done with the sport, but just going into the gym and feeling tired and being like, OK, I’m going to get my stuff [done], get out,” she said. “We have this one end goal, and now that it’s postponed another [year], it’s just like, how are we going to deal with that? We’re already being drained, and so it’s to keep the fire in the sport within yourself alive.”

MORE: Top U.S. gymnasts disagree with Tokyo Olympic age rule

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2022 Pan Pacific Championships canceled as swimming calendar shifts

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The Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, a quadrennial major international meet, will not be held in 2022 “out of respect for the recent changes to the international sporting calendar,” according to a press release.

The Pan Pacs’ charter nations — the U.S., Australia, Canada and Japan — agreed to the move. The 2026 event will be held in Canada, which was supposed to be the 2022 host.

The decision came after the 2021 World Championships were moved to May 2022, following the Tokyo Olympics moving from 2020 to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The quadrennial multi-sport Commonwealth Games — which includes Australia and Canada, but not the U.S. or Japan — are scheduled for July 27-Aug. 7, 2022.

“Organizing a third major championships in that window presented several challenges,” according to the Pan Pacs release.

Pan Pacs mark the third-biggest major international meet for U.S. swimmers, held in non-Olympic, non-world championships years.

MORE: Caeleb Dressel co-hosts a podcast. It’s not about swimming.

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