Simone Biles lands new vault, wins in her first gymnastics meet since 2019

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Simone Biles won in her first gymnastics meet since October 2019, landed the world’s most difficult vault and launched into what should be an historic and perhaps final Olympic season.

She fell off the uneven bars and put her hands down on the floor exercise, but has two months to fix the flaws.

Biles, the four-time Rio gold medalist wearing a rhinestone goat on the back of her leotard, prevailed at the U.S. Classic, a tune-up for the year’s biggest meets: U.S. Championships, Olympic Trials and Tokyo Games.

Biles totaled 58.4 points in Indianapolis. She hasn’t lost an all-around in eight years. Training partner Jordan Chiles took second, 1.3 behind. Some of the Olympic team contenders strategically didn’t compete on all four apparatuses.

Full results are here.

“It was really nerve-racking, but I’m just happy to be back out here,” Biles said on NBCSN. “I’m not really mad about today.”

Biles’ highlight was a vault that no women and few men have performed in competition — a Yurchenko double pike. She had too much power, over-rotating and bounding several feet beyond her otherwise clean landing.

“Well, I made it, so … ” Biles said as she walked off. She then sat down and checked her phone.

If she lands it at the Olympics, it will be the fifth skill named after her.

Biles was disappointed that the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) gave a preliminary (but not final) 6.6 difficulty value, making it the most difficult vault in women’s gymnastics by two tenths of a point. She believes it should be 6.8, and U.S. high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster is on her side.

Biles likened it to 2019, when she debuted a balance beam dismount that was given a difficulty score two tenths lower than what she believed it should be. Biles called that decision “bull—-” two years ago. The FIG chose the lower value in part due to concern over safety. Gymnasts could be more willing to try the dismount — a double-twisting double back — before they were ready if the difficulty value was higher.

“There’s no point in putting up a fight because they’re not going to reward it the correct value, but that’s OK,” Biles said Saturday of the vault. “They’re both too low, and they even know it, but they don’t want the field to be too far apart. … They had an open-end Code of Points [instituted in 2006], and now they’re mad that people are too far ahead and excelling.”

ON HER TURF: Every replay of Biles’ new vault

Elsewhere, Biles fell off the uneven bars, an event that was her nemesis in the last Olympic cycle.

She also made a rare mistake on her trademark event, floor exercise, in a routine that her “Dancing with the Stars” partner, Sasha Farber, helped choreograph.

After landing two more eponymous skills — a triple-double and a double layout with a half twist — she put her hands down on the floor on a double-double on her final tumbling pass. She still had the highest floor score by three tenths thanks largely to her unmatched difficulty score.

“I’m proud of how today went, even though it was a little bit rough and uncharacteristic,” she said.

Gymnasts were preparing for the U.S. Championships in two weeks in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Olympic Trials from June 24-27 in St. Louis.

At Trials, the top two women in the all-around combining scores from both days automatically make the team. Jade Carey already qualified for one of up to two spots in individual events only. A selection committee fills out the rest of the six-woman roster.

Biles, 24, was planning for 2020 to be her final year of competition. She was in tears after the Olympic postponement. She told her mom that she couldn’t see herself extending her career one more year in a sport where teens prosper (with increasing exceptions).

But Biles found motivation in, as her mom has often told her before meets, being the best Simone. Improving on her already unprecedented skill set. And continuing to be a voice for change and accountability in the sport after coming forward as an abuse survivor.

There were no significant gymnastics meets in 2020 after the pandemic halted sports. Biles’ planned return event in Tokyo earlier this month was canceled. So it ended up being 587 days between competitions for arguably the world’s best athlete, the longest break of any American sports superstar over the last 15 months.

Chiles, who moved from Washington to Biles’ gym in 2019, was runner-up Saturday, three months after winning the other significant competition this year, the Winter Cup.

The 20-year-old considered giving up elite gymnastics during the pandemic. She ultimately deferred UCLA enrollment. Chiles was sixth at 2019 Nationals and has never made a world championships team. Now she’s a bona fide Olympic team contender, if not the favorite to get the second automatic Olympic spot behind Biles.

“She’s a completely different athlete now than when she was in 2018,” Forster said.

Other established gymnasts are coming back from significant injuries or illness suffered over the last year.

Suni Lee, the second-best American behind Biles in 2019, missed about two months in 2020 after breaking a bone in her left foot. Then another two months due to left Achilles problems. She fell off both her best event, uneven bars, and the balance beam on Saturday.

Morgan Hurd, the 2017 World all-around champion during Biles’ year off, had her fifth and sixth right elbow surgeries in March. She performed on beam and floor, grading it “extremely shaky” and “really not up to my standards,” while knowing the meets that matter are next month.

Laurie Hernandez, the only other active Rio Olympic team member, returned in February after a four-and-a-half-year break from competition. She smacked her ankle on the uneven bars in March and didn’t return to full routines in practice until last week. She did beam (with a fall) and vault on Saturday.

Riley McCusker, a two-time U.S. all-around bronze medalist, withdrew after her first event, vault. She landed, immediately lifted her left foot off the mat and was taken off to the side of the competition floor.

Chellsie Memmel, a 2008 Olympian and 32-year-old mother of two in her first competition in nine years, was the highlight of the early afternoon session. She hit her opening vault, and though she fell off her other event, beam, was thrilled with the comeback.

“You’re seeing how far you can actually take this when people said you should have retired when you were 20 or when you were 24, or you can’t have kids and come back to a sport,” Memmel said on Peacock. “That kind of thinking, I feel, is so backwards, but that’s what we think is true, and it’s not true. For me, I just wanted to put that message out to anybody who thought they missed their chance at something.”

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U.S. women win record 27th consecutive FIBA World Cup game

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SYDNEY — There’s been a long legacy of success for the U.S. women’s basketball team at the World Cup.

The names change over time, but the results don’t seem to.

Kelsey Plum scored 20 points, Chelsea Gray added 16 and the United States routed Bosnia and Herzegovina 121-59 on Tuesday to break the team record for consecutive wins at the World Cup.

The victory was the 27th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The U.S. won 26 in a row from 1994-2006 leading up to that game. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

“It’s kind of amazing,” said Breanna Stewart, who has been part of the last three World Cup teams. “Obviously, been here for some of it, but you understand the legends before that who really kind of started the streak. It goes to show that no matter who is playing on USA Basketball, we’re always trying to chase excellence.

“This streak doesn’t mean much right now because we’re going into the quarterfinals and focusing on winning a gold medal, but it’s something to kind of hang your hat on later.”

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Stewart and A’ja Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t appear it will end anytime soon.

“The players change and, you know, there was a lot of concern about who’s next,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It was a concern when Dawn Staley and Lisa Leslie were playing and who was going to be next. Then it was Sue and (Taurasi) and then other great players, too. Now with this group they are saying, hey, we’re pretty good, too.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The U.S. last lost a group play game in 1975, according to Bill Mallon of Olympedia.org.

“We know the responsibility when you put on this jersey. There’s a lot more than yourself,” Plum said. “Everyone puts pride to the side. We have a common goal. We have some amazing players on this team.”

The Americans (5-0) won their pool games by an average of 46.2 points and never trailed in any of them. Now they play Serbia in the quarterfinals.

The U.S. was coming off a record rout of South Korea in which the team broke the World Cup record for points with 145. While the Americans didn’t match that number, they put the game out of reach in the first 10 minutes, going up 33-15.

The lead ballooned to 63-31 at halftime. Bosnia and Herzegovina put together a small run to start the third quarter, but the U.S. scored the final 19 points of the period.

Once again they used a dominant inside performance, outscoring Bosnia and Herzegovina 84-28 in the paint led by Wilson, Stewart and Brionna Jones.

“It’s a huge part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Ninety-whatever we had yesterday and 84 today, we just know what we’re good at and we have players that are really understanding their opportunities for that.”

The U.S. was missing Jewell Loyd, whom the team said was resting. Kahleah Copper started in her place and finished with 11 points.

Nikolina Elez scored 19 points to lead the Bosniaks (0-5), who were playing in their first World Cup.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA vs. Serbia
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico
4 a.m. China vs. France
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. Semifinal
5:30 a.m. Semifinal
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final