Simone Biles to headline post-Olympic gymnastics tour

Simone Biles
AP
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Simone Biles wants to bring gymnastics to the masses and plans to bring some of her friends along for the ride.

The Olympic and world champion is headlining a tour in the fall of 2020 that will be a mixture of sports and entertainment intended to inspire the next generation of female athletes. The “Gold Over America” tour will visit more than 35 cities, including Biles’ hometown of Houston as well as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The idea originated when Biles was in the early stages of her return to gymnastics in the fall of 2017 after taking a year off following her memorable performance at the 2016 Olympics, where she won four gold medals and five in all, becoming the face of her sport.

“When we found out I was coming back, we kind of sat down and talked about things I would want to do,” Biles told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “They said it could be as small as starting a perfume line or maybe as big as a tour. I was like, ‘Actually, that would be pretty sweet. That would be the coolest thing ever.’”

The women-only roster will reunite Biles with longtime friend Katelyn Ohashi. Ohashi and Biles competed against each other growing up. Like Biles, Ohashi — the 2012 junior national champion — had designs on competing at the Olympics before injuries sidetracked her elite career. She instead attended UCLA, helping the Bruins win the national title in 2018 and becoming a viral sensation last winter with her Michael Jackson-themed floor routine.

“She made her mark,” Biles said. “She put college gymnastics and gymnastics … back on the map. She has impacted a lot of female gymnasts and I think this really brings us full circle.”

The tour will also finally allow Biles to join forces with former UCLA coach Val Kondos Field. Biles verbally committed to compete for the Bruins before turning professional in 2015. Kondos Field, who retired last spring, will serve as executive producer and supervising choreographer for the tour.

Biles said the goal is to bring the sport closer to the audience and also to loosen things up a bit. The plan is to utilize giant video screens, pyrotechnics and an in-house DJ.

“We want this to be completely different,” Biles said. “There will be dancing. Hopefully trampoline. Something people have never seen before.”

Biles captured five gold medals at the 2019 World Championships to boost her career total to 25 medals overall, a record for both men and women. She is widely considered the greatest gymnast of all time, and her face has been at the forefront of television promos for the 2020 Olympics, where she will try to become the first woman in more than 50 years to repeat as all-around champion.

While there are times she admits she’s still processing her fame, she’s is starting to understand her influence on the sport. It’s one of the reasons she agreed to headline the tour.

“In a way, it’s scary,” Biles said. “But at this point I also feel like it’s really exciting to have a platform that I do and to be able to do some of the things that I’ve been blessed with. I think it’s a combination of both. So I don’t know. We went back and forth on if we wanted my name in it, but you never know. I think it’ll be OK.”

USA Gymnastics typically coordinates a post-Olympic tour of its own, though there are no plans for one in 2020. The organization remains in bankruptcy court as it tries to reach a resolution with athletes who were sexually abused by former national team doctor Larry Nassar, who abused gymnasts — Biles included — under the guise of treatment.

Biles said she hasn’t spoken to anyone at USA Gymnastics directly about her tour but added, “I know they’re aware about it and they’ve been pretty supportive.”

“Simone is an amazing athlete and person, and having her own tour will give her a stage to showcase her skills and talent, as well as those of other women,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement.

Just how many athletes will join Biles and Ohashi remains uncertain.

“We’re looking at the top of the line and the best gymnasts from elite and maybe we did think from around the world, but that gets really, really difficult just because of the visas and all of that stuff,” Biles said. “Right now in the circle I know a couple of college gymnasts and then elite gymnasts (who will be on the tour), like world class.”

Biles is in the midst of a recovery period following her record-breaking performance at the world championships. She said she anticipates returning to competition in April before the U.S. Championships, the Olympic Trials and then the Olympics next summer.

Then it’s likely off to retirement and a chance to make an impact far beyond the competition floor, a process that will start with the tour, where she will have her hand in selecting the group and helping put the show together.

“I feel like everyone’s creative vision coming together is very unique,” she said. “And so I think once we get together and we have a set plan on what we’ll do, it’ll be very exciting.”

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MORE: Simone Biles reveals one thing she cannot do: Wear all her medals at once

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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