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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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Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would only be trailing one athlete from any country in any sports — Michael Phelps, who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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