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Chloe Kim to take year off from snowboarding competition

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Chloe Kim will not compete this snowboard season to focus on freshman classes at Princeton but plans to return next year and go for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

“It was a really tough decision,” Kim said in a YouTube video, noting she had been competing at a pro level since age 12. “I do not hate competing whatsoever. I love it so much, but at the same time, I wanted to kind of explore life outside of that scene for a year. … Competing is really, really stressful.

“I need some Chloe time. I need to be a human. I need to be a normal kid for once because I haven’t been able to do that my whole life.”

Kim, 19, announced a month after the Olympics that she was accepted to Princeton but deferred enrollment until this year. She was expected to juggle competing this Olympic cycle with classes.

“I want to be in good health for the next Olympics as well as for the rest of my life, so I think this was a good decision,” said Kim, who is in a classroom setting for the first time since seventh grade, after which she was home-schooled. “A lot of people, after the Olympics, they do take a year off from competing, and I didn’t do that last year.”

Kim, who in PyeongChang became the youngest Olympic halfpipe gold medalist, extended her dominance last season. She swept the Dew Tour, X Games and world championships before breaking her ankle in a minor fall and taking second at the season-ending Burton U.S. Open.

“When you kind of get stuck in the same routine, over and over and over again, year after year after year, it gets pretty hard,” she said. “I felt like I lost a part of myself in a sense where I didn’t feel like I had an actual life outside of snowboarding. Which is completely fine, because I love snowboarding so much and it is my life, but it made me a little nervous thinking that my life was 100 percent snowboarding, and, after the Olympics last year, I took my ACTs, SATs, studied and I did pretty well and I got into my dream school.”

In Kim’s absence, the top halfpipe rider may be PyeongChang Olympic teammate Maddie Mastro, who earned bronze at worlds then won the U.S. Open last season.

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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.”

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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