Jordan Chiles wins Winter Cup; Laurie Hernandez comes back

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Jordan Chiles won the Winter Cup, while Laurie Hernandez competed for the first time since the Rio Olympics in the first significant elite gymnastics meet in the U.S. in nearly one year.

Chiles, a 19-year-old who trains with Simone Biles, totaled 57.05 points at the Indianapolis Convention Center largely without spectators. She prevailed by 1.95 over Shilese Jones.

Full results are here.

“You can kind of tell that everybody had nerves here and there,” said Chiles, who considered ending her elite career during the pandemic but ultimately deferred enrollment at UCLA for a second year. “I did what I was supposed to do when I needed to.”

Most of the U.S.’ top gymnasts either weren’t at the meet — which U.S. high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster equated to a preseason football game — or chose to perform on fewer than four apparatuses.

Biles passed. She’s expected to return for a World Cup in Tokyo in May, her first competition since the October 2019 World Championships.

Hernandez, in her first meet in four and a half years, had the fifth-highest score on balance beam (13.95) and was 11th on floor exercise (12.05), taking out some difficulty ahead of the more important spring and summer events.

“It was terrifying to initially go back out there,” she said. “Super watered-down routines so we could dip my toe back in the water and get the feeling of what it feels like to compete again at such a high level. … I’m really excited about how today went, and I think it foreshadows a really good meet season.”

ON HER TURF: Takeaways from Winter Cup

Chiles, the 2017 U.S. all-around silver medalist, had the highest scores on vault (14.9) and floor (13.6) and tied for the best beam score (14.5). She won in her first competition since September 2019.

“The last year and a half, I honestly put in so much work to prove to myself that I can do it,” said Chiles, who moved from her native Washington to train at Biles’ gym in Texas in 2019. “I went out here and did the same thing.”

That Olympic roster, named after June’s trials, will be four women, plus two more for individual events only. Jade Carey clinched one of the individual spots last spring.

Sunisa Lee, the 2019 U.S. all-around silver medalist behind Biles, had Saturday’s highest score on uneven bars (15.05), her best event. She was also third on beam and didn’t perform on floor or vault as she builds back from injuries.

Lee, 17, was largely shut out of her Minnesota gym from March 18 until the start of June. Two weeks after it reopened, she suffered an avulsion fracture in her left foot and missed two months. She then had Achilles tendinitis that curtailed training another two months during a year in which both parents and her sister had Covid, and an aunt and uncle died from Covid.

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Saudi Arabia to host 2029 Asian Winter Games

Olympic Council of Asia
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Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029 in mountains near the $500 billion futuristic city project Neom.

The Olympic Council of Asia on Tuesday picked the Saudi candidacy that centers on Trojena that is planned to be a year-round ski resort by 2026.

“The deserts & mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for Winter sports!” the OCA said in a statement announcing its decision.

Saudi sports minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal said the kingdom’s winter sports project “challenges perception” in a presentation of the plan to OCA members.

“Trojena is the future of mountain living,” the minister said of a region described as an area of about 60 square kilometers at altitude ranging from 1,500 to 2,600 meters.

The Neom megaproject is being fund by the Saudi sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund.

Saudi Arabia also will host the Asian Games in 2034 in Riyadh as part of aggressive moves to build a sports hosting portfolio and help diversify the economy from reliance on oil.

A campaign to host soccer’s 2030 World Cup is expected with an unprecedented three-continent bid including Egypt and Greece.

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Jim Redmond, who helped son Derek finish 1992 Olympic race, dies

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Jim Redmond, who helped his injured son, Derek, finish his 1992 Olympic 400m semifinal, died at age 81 on Sunday, according to the British Olympic Association, citing family members.

At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Derek pulled his right hamstring 15 seconds into his 400m semifinal, falling to the track in anguish.

He brushed off help from officials, got up and began limping around the track. About 120 meters from the finish line, he felt the presence of an uncredentialed man who rushed down the stadium stairs, dodged officials and said, “We started this together, and we’re going to finish this together,” according to Olympedia.org.

“As I turned into the home straight, I could sense this person was about to try and stop me,” Derek said in an NBC Olympics profile interview before the 2012 London Games. “I was just about to get ready to sort of fend them off, and then I heard a familiar voice of my dad. He said, ‘Derek, it’s me. You don’t need to do this.'”

Derek said he shouted to his dad that he wanted to finish the race.

“He was sort of saying things like, ‘You’ve got nothing to prove. You’re a champion. You’ll come back. You’re one of the best guys in the world. You’re a true champion. You’ve got heart. You’re going to get over this. We’ll conquer the world together,'” Derek remembered. “I’m just sort of saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.'”

At one point, Derek noticed stadium security, not knowing who Jim was, having removed guns from their holsters.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard my dad use bad language,” Derek said. “He just goes, ‘Leave him alone, I’m his father.'”

Derek told himself in that moment, “I’m going to finish this race if it’s the last race I ever run.” It turned out to be the last 400m race of his career, after surgery and 18 months of rehab were not enough to yield a competitive comeback, according to Sports Illustrated.

Derek had missed the 1988 Seoul Games after tearing an Achilles, reportedly while warming up for his opening race. He looked strong in Barcelona, winning his first-round heat and quarterfinal.

“I’d rather be seen to be coming last in the semifinal than not finish in the semifinal,” he said, “because at least I can say I gave it my best.”