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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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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.”

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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.

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