Simone Biles, delaying adulting, surprises herself going into U.S. Classic

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Simone Biles, at 22, is not only by far the world’s best gymnast, but she is also probably the only homeowner competing at Saturday’s U.S. Classic, a tune-up for next month’s U.S. Championships.

With age comes responsibility. Biles, who turned professional in 2015, knows this well. The other day, one of her coaches, Laurent Landi, reminded Biles that gymnastics is her job.

“It’s still my hobby!” Biles said, recounting the story. “Don’t tell me that. It’s scary.

“I’m going to try to push off adulting as much as I can.”

Biles plans to compete in all four events on Saturday (7 p.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA), aiming to extend an unbeaten all-around streak since then-coach Aimee Boorman pulled her struggling pupil out of this meet in 2013.

The U.S.’ other headliners are in Louisville, including Morgan Hurd, who won the 2017 World all-around title during Biles’ one-year break. Plus the rest of the competing members of the 2018 World title team.

Biles, who won last year’s world all-around by a record margin despite balance beam and vault falls, is prepared to increase her already unmatched difficulty.

She performed a triple twisting double tuck somersault in floor exercise training, which no woman has done in major competition, but said she will not throw it on Saturday night. She also has an upgraded balance beam dismount, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Biles averaged nearly seven tenths more difficulty per apparatus than the next-highest gymnast in the 2018 World all-around final. She still surprises herself in raising her own standard.

“[Coaches] ask me to push past my boundaries that I already thought I exceeded before,” she said. “I just look at them like you guys are crazy. Then I do it, and I’m like, OK, maybe I’m the crazy one.”

She could wonder if the risk to her execution score is worth adding the difficulty of extra flips and twists when she’s already so far ahead. She doesn’t.

“Every year you should try to be better than you were the year before,” Biles said. “So it doesn’t matter how far ahead I am. I should try to better my gymnastics and myself.

“If you had asked me a couple of years ago, I would have been like, there’s no way I’ll upgrade from this, and now I’m continuing to upgrade. I’m just like, geez, how much more can I do?”

It’s a less finite answer now that Biles is leaving the door open to competing beyond the Tokyo Games. She said in 2017, in returning to training, that she expected to retire after the 2020 Olympics. Now?

“I’m just trying to get through 2020 first, and then we will see where it goes,” she said, according to the Chronicle.

Biles is finding ways to stay fresh, taking personal days from the gym, even napping, something she used to kid Aly Raisman for doing. Biles and other gymnasts jokingly called Raisman “grandma” in the last Olympic cycle. Raisman was 22 in Rio. Biles turns 23 in 2020.

“I feel like I rot more than I did before,” said Biles, in line to become the oldest U.S. Olympic female gymnast since 2004. “I can’t waste one ounce of energy. … My friends are like, let’s go to lunch. I’m like, is it going to be quick?”

NBC Olympics researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report from Louisville.

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Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

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Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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