Magnificent Seven gymnastics
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How the Magnificent Seven 1996 Olympic gymnastics team was chosen

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Olympic Trials, often deemed tougher competition than the Olympics themselves, are typically filled with surprises and nail-biting. The drama for the 1996 U.S. women’s gymnastics team race occurred, for the most part, before trials began.

It came down to two days at Boston’s Fleet Center, three weeks before the Opening Ceremony. There, the top seven finishers in all-around competition were in line to make up the Olympic team.

It didn’t turn out to be that simple.

For one, the previous two national champions — Shannon Miller and Dominique Moceanu — came out of the U.S. Championships three weeks earlier with injuries (wrist tendinitis, tibia fracture). They chose to petition for spots on the Olympic team rather than attempt to compete while hurt at trials.

The process: their scores from nationals would be used. It was highly unlikely that five other gymnasts would better Miller and Moceanu, who placed first and third, respectively, at nationals. The duo watched trials inside the Fleet Center. USA Gymnastics reportedly confirmed they mathematically clinched spots after the first day of competition.

Back then, the two-day competition included compulsories, which counted for 60 percent of a final score, and optionals, which counted 40 percent.

Going into optionals, the standings looked like this:

Miller — 47.220 (from nationals)
Moceanu — 47.1 (from nationals)
Jaycie Phelps — 46.887
Dominique Dawes — 46.768
Kerri Strug — 46.588
Amy Chow — 46.377
Amanda Borden — 45.913
Beth Arnold — 45.568
Theresa Kulikowski — 45.433

The 14-woman field featured nine with world championships experience, plus future Olympians in Kristen Maloney (2000) and Mohini Bhardwaj (2004). The way compulsories shook out was hardly a surprise. Phelps was second at nationals, while Dawes, Strug and Borden also placed top six three weeks earlier.

Chow was a unique case. She was sixth in compulsories at nationals, then withdrew before optionals with back spasms.

At trials, on her last routine, she awkwardly fell off the balance beam, smacking her face on the apparatus. Chow had either 10 seconds or 30 seconds to remount the beam, depending on which report you believe. She did it within 10 seconds and finished the routine to remain, comfortably, in the top five.

Two of the top challengers — Kristy Powell and Theresa Kulikowski — fell in compulsories. They shared a coach — Tom Forster, who now oversees the U.S. women’s national team.

The last Olympic spot went to Amanda Borden, who missed the 1992 Olympic team. Borden would be named captain of the Magnificent Seven. The final Olympic Trials standings:

Shannon Miller — 78.380 (from nationals)
Dominique Moceanu — 78.220 (from nationals)
Dominique Dawes — 78.157
Kerri Strug — 78.108
Jaycie Phelps — 77.736
Amy Chow — 77.267
Amanda Borden — 77.162

Theresa Kulikowski — 76.491

MORE: Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin wear 2008 leotards for Olympic watch party

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Coco Gauff upsets 9th seed to start French Open

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Coco Gauff notched yet another impressive Grand Slam match win, taking out ninth seed Jo Konta in her French Open main draw debut on Sunday.

Gauff, a 16-year-old American, upset the Brit Konta, a 2019 French Open semifinalist, 6-3, 6-3 on the first day of play at Roland Garros despite 12 double faults. Konta had 41 unforced errors to 22 winners.

“Every match is a great win,” said Gauff, the youngest player in either singles draw. “I don’t really take anything for granted because I’m just happy to be playing. I don’t think maybe winning Slams, matches at Slams is something I’m used to. Especially, this is my first main draw Roland Garros. When I’m on the court. I can act like I’m used to it. When I’m off the court, I’m just happy to be here.”

The clay-court Slam was postponed from May due to the coronavirus pandemic, is being held with damp temperatures in the 50s and has limited spectators to 1,000 per day.

“I’m pretty sure this is my first ever pro tournament, maybe even tournament in general, playing in weather like this,” said Gauff, noting she warmed up for 20 minutes before going on court so she could walk in with a sweat.

Gauff, the 2018 French Open junior champion, gets Italian qualifier Martina Trevisan in the second round after playing a match in leggings for the first time in about six years.

She’s coming off an impressive last year-plus, reaching the fourth round at the most recent Wimbledon and Australian Open. In between, she became the youngest WTA tournament champion since 2004. She recorded wins over Venus Williams and Naomi Osaka.

Gauff will bid over the next nine months to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team outright by being among the top four Americans in WTA rankings after the 2021 French Open. Therefore, her result at this French Open will not count toward Olympic qualifying.

She is currently ranked 51st overall and eighth among Americans.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Sunday, Williams finished her 2020 with a third first-round loss in as many Grand Slam tournaments — 6-4, 6-4 to Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

With the WTA’s autumn Asian swing canceled, Williams said she won’t play before next season starts in Australia.

Williams, 40 years old and ranked 76th, will need a scintillating start to 2021 to make the U.S. Olympic team in singles. She is currently the 14th-highest-ranked American. If she doesn’t make it in singles, Williams (or Gauff) could be chosen as a doubles-only player for the Tokyo Games.

Top seed Simona Halep took the last 10 games of her 6-4, 6-0 win over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo. Halep, who is on a 15-match win streak dating to February, could play Gauff in the quarterfinals.

On the men’s side, Stan Wawrinka swept Andy Murray 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in a battle of three-time major champions and a rematch of their life-changing 2017 semifinal in Paris.

“I need to have a long, hard think about it,” Murray said. “I don’t feel like the conditions are an excuse for it.”

It marked Murray’s first match on clay since that semi, won by Wawrinka in five sets. After that match three years ago, Wawrinka underwent two knee surgeries and Murray had two hip surgeries. Neither has made a Grand Slam semifinal since, and Murray nearly retired due to hip problems.

U.S. men went 3-0 on Sunday after winning one match total at the 2019 French Open.

The most notable victor: Sebastian Korda, the 20-year-old son of Czech 1998 Australian Open winner Petr Korda and brother of Nelly Korda, the world’s second-ranked female golfer.

Korda beat Italian veteran Andreas Seppi 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to become the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since 18-year-old Andy Roddick defeated Michael Chang in 2001.

Korda, after his first tour-level win, gets John Isner in the second round.

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, each trying to tie Grand Slam singles titles records, play first-round matches on Monday.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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Julian Alaphilippe wins world road race title with late attack

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Julian Alaphilippe became the first Frenchman to win a road cycling world title in 23 years, attacking late and holding on to prevail by 24 seconds in Imola, Italy, on Sunday.

Alaphilippe, who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey for 16 stages between the last two years, went clear from a star-filled group at the top of the last climb with about eight miles left of a 160-mile day.

“It was a dream of my career, you know,” said Alaphilippe, whose best previous worlds finish was eighth. “I came here with, for sure, a lot of ambition. It’s just a dream day for me.”

Belgian Wout van Aert took silver, followed by Swiss Marc Hirschi in a five-man bunch sprint for the last two medals. Van Aert also earned silver in the time trial on Friday.

Slovenian Primoz Roglic, who was second in the Tour de France, finished sixth in the same time as the silver and bronze medalists after more than six and a half hours of racing.

The top American was Sepp Kuss in 52nd place, 12:35 behind.

Full results are here.

The last Frenchmen to win world titles were Laurent Brochard (road race) and Laurent Jalabert (time trial) in 1997.

Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, who won the Tour de France last Sunday, attacked with 26 miles left. He led by as much as 25 seconds before being reeled back in with about 13 miles to go.

The cycling season continues with the last two Grand Tours, each starting later than normal due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Giro d’Italia begins Oct. 3, and the Vuelta a Espana starts Oct. 20, before the Giro finishes.

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MORE: A more equal future for women’s cycling? Lizzie Deignan has high hopes