Simone Biles has a goat on her leotard, owns the haters

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Simone Biles had a goat and her last name in silver stones on the back of her leotard to open practice for this week’s U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

Justified. She is the greatest female gymnast of her era and very arguably in history for either gender. And the sport’s recognizable global superstar.

“I don’t want to be cocky or anything,” she said at training Wednesday in Kansas City. “My mom was really worried about the leo today. … I don’t think there will be anything bad [comments] except for some fans and some haters.”

Biles seeks a record-tying sixth national all-around title in Kansas City beginning Friday. The second and final day of women’s competition is Sunday, A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Biles competed at her previous meet in July with her last name on the back of her leotard for the first time in recent memory, perhaps ever since she became a senior elite gymnast in 2013.

She clarified Wednesday that the rest of her gym mates from her family’s World Champions Centre in Texas were supposed to have names on their leotards at July’s U.S. Classic as well. But they ran into a problem. Another gymnast’s last name, Olivia Hollingsworth, was too long to fit.

“They already made mine and said we’ll keep yours, but we’ll put WCC on the back [of the other gymnasts’ leotards],” Biles said. “Then everybody [online critics] had a conniption. A lot of people loved it, but at the end of the day, I sat in the hotel room. My family said, why are you so upset? I was like, it’s literally my last name. I didn’t choose to be born. I didn’t choose to be given this last name. I was assigned this name, and people are so upset. And to me, it was almost like it was a little bit sexist as well because any sport has the last name on the [uniform], but if I had it there was a problem. Other jerseys in sports. Most are male. And so I feel like if females have it, they’re like, oh well, who does she think she is? And I got a lot of those comments that night. I didn’t think anything was wrong with it.”

Biles also said her leotard choices were to have fun with those who criticize her on social media, particularly those who hide behind fake names or no name at all.

“It’s not right that the haters can get all the jabs and we can’t jab back, like, kindly or nicely,” she said. “I have all the power now. They can say whatever.

“I thought it was just be cool. I thought it was unique. I hadn’t seen it. Let’s do something different.”

Other World Champions Centre gymnasts had their last names on their practice leotards Wednesday, Biles said, but everybody will be wearing the standard “WCC” on the back on Friday because of space restrictions.

“I’ve even seen some of the men in NCAA have it,” Biles said. “And I was like, but I’ve never seen a girl’s leo do it.”

Biles is undefeated in all-around competitions for more than six years, including a women’s record four world titles and her dominant Rio Olympic performance.

She made a statement with her leotard choice at last year’s nationals, Biles wore a teal mint design, sporting the color designated for sexual-abuse survivors. She came forward in January 2018 as a Larry Nassar survivor.

“Going into it, I felt like I would look very good in this color, and then everything kind of happened,” Biles said last year, after the most dominant performance in nationals history. “It is for the survivors, and I stand with all of them. I think it’s kind of special to unite.”

NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report from Kansas City.

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Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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