Simone Biles leads halfway through, primed for seventh national title


Simone Biles did not perform the historic Yurchenko double pike vault that she debuted less than two weeks ago, nor the double twisting-double back dismount named after her on balance beam, but still leads by a wide margin after the first of two nights at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

Halfway to a seventh national title, Biles’ score of 59.75 points leads 2019 U.S. silver medalist Suni Lee by 2.4 points going into Sunday’s conclusion when the women will again perform on all four apparatuses in Fort Worth, Texas. Biles’ training mate and close friend Jordan Chiles is in third, 0.45 back from Lee with 56.9.

With a win this weekend, Biles, 24, would break a tie she holds with Clara Schroth Lomady for most all-around national titles.

Biles cleaned up her two major mistakes from the U.S. Classic, her first competition in 19 months that was held just 13 days ago: a fall on bars and putting her hands down on floor exercise. She did have a couple of minor errors on Friday, including separating her legs on bars and a bobble on beam.

Still, the 25-time world medalist led the field in three of four events, with a 15.8 on vault, 14.65 on floor and 14.35 on beam. Her floor routine, which included two eponymous skills, was so powerful that three tumbling passes sent her out of bounds.

“Tonight I feel like it was really good, it was definitely better than Classic,” Biles told Andrea Joyce on NBCSN. “Floor could have been a little bit better, I need to control my adrenaline.”

GYMNASTICS NATIONALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Biles’ 14.75 on uneven bars, consistently her least favorite event throughout her career, was second to Lee.

The 2019 world bronze medalist on bars, Lee performed what NBC analyst and 2008 Olympic champion Nastia Liukin called “absolutely the most difficult bar routine in the entire world,” with 1984 Olympic champion Tim Daggett adding that it would have earned the gold at the 2019 Worlds. Her routine scored 15.3 points, creating a 0.55 margin between her and Biles on that event.

This meet is a memorable one for Lee, whose father John is attending his first gymnastics competition in three years. John fell off a ladder two days before Suni was scheduled to leave for the 2019 U.S. Championships; the accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.

“It was amazing having him in the stands,” Lee said. “Actually, before my bar routine I was trying to look for him. I was getting nervous because I didn’t know where they were, and then right before I went I saw them and knew it was going to be a good routine.”

Jade Carey (55.45), who has already qualified for the Olympic team as an individual but is pushing to be considered for the team, was fourth despite watered down routines on vault and floor. Leanne Wong (55.3), the 2019 American Cup champion, round out the top five.

There is only 0.45 points separating sixth through 11th in the standings. That group includes 2019 world team members Kara Eaker (54.55) and Grace McCallum (54.3) in sixth and eighth and 2016 Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner in ninth (54.2).

At 32 years old, Chellsie Memmel was once again a highlight of the meet in her second competition back from a nine-year retirement.

Competing with her husband and both of her kids in the crowd for the first time, the 2005 world champion and 2008 Olympian began her night on vault. Memmel performed a double-twisting Yurchenko for the first time in 15 years, scoring 14.75 points for the fifth-highest vault score. She came off bars, which she added after only competing vault and beam at last month’s U.S. Classic, earning just 11.65 points there, but had a solid beam routine that tied for sixth place with a 13.7.

“The emotions started after I saved my Arabian (which she fell on at U.S. Classic), and I smiled and knew I had the dismount,” Memmel said of her beam routine. “After landing the dismount and saluting, it was a major exhale and sigh of relief. That was huge. I felt very proud of that.”

The third and final Olympian in the field, 2016 beam silver medalist Laurie Hernandez, scored 12.4 points for her beam routine in the first rotation that included a fall back on her dismount. She promptly withdrew from the remainder of the night but has not ruled out competing Sunday. Hernandez’s left knee was wrapped during her beam routine, and it was later revealed on her Twitter account that she hyperextended the knee during warmups.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!


Chloe Kim, Elana Meyers Taylor among Olympians to join presidential sports council

Elana Meyers Taylor, President Joe Biden

Chloe Kim and Elana Meyers Taylor are among the Olympic and Paralympic medalists set to join the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition.

President Joe Biden intends to appoint the snowboarder Kim, bobsledder Meyers Taylor, retired Olympic medalists Chaunté Lowe (track and field) and Tamika Catchings (basketball) and Paralympic medalist Melissa Stockwell (triathlon) to the council, among other athletes and people in the health and fitness fields, it was announced Friday.

Stephen and Ayesha Curry are also on the list.

The council “aims to promote healthy, accessible eating and physical activity for all Americans, regardless of background or ability.”

Last year, Biden appointed basketball gold medalist Elena Delle Donne a co-chair of the council.

Kim, the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, sat out this past season but is expected to return to competition for a third Olympic run in 2026.

Meyers Taylor, the most decorated U.S. Olympic bobsledder in history with medals in all five of her Olympic events, sat out this past season due to pregnancy. She took her first bobsled run in 13 months this past week in Lake Placid, New York.

There is a long history of Olympians and Paralympians serving on the council, which was created in 1956.

In 2017, Barack Obama appointed medalists including gymnast Gabby Douglas, soccer player Carli Lloyd and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Others to previously be on the council include sprinter Allyson Felix, figure skater Michelle Kwan and swimmer and triathlete Brad Snyder.

Members serve for two years and can be reappointed.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Kaori Sakamoto wins figure skating worlds; top American places fourth


Kaori Sakamoto overcame a late error in her free skate to become the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world titles and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.

Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama to prevail by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea in the closest women’s finish at worlds since 2011.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.

Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.

She appeared en route to an easier victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the gold in doubt. She can be thankful for pulling off the second jump of that planned combination — a triple toe loop — and her 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.

“I feel so pathetic and thought, what was all that hard work I put into my training?” Sakamoto said of her mistake, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “But I was able to refocus and do my best till the end.

“Because I have this feeling of regret at the biggest event of the season, I want to make sure I don’t have this feeling next season. So I want to practice even harder, and I want to make sure to do clean, perfect performances at every competition.”

Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.

Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest senior world medalist since 2014.

After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three. The Lutz was planned to be the first half of a combination with a triple loop.

“I am severely disappointed because I’ve been nailing my Lutz-loop for a really long time, and this is the first time I’ve messed it up in a while, and of course it had to be when it actually counted,” Levito said, according to the ISU. “But I’m pretty happy with myself for just trying to move past it and focusing on making the most out of the rest of the program.”

Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season. She matched the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut (Olympics and worlds) since Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took silver and bronze at the 1991 Worlds. Sasha Cohen, to whom Levito is often compared, also placed fourth in her Olympic and world debuts in 2002.

“I feel very proud for myself and grateful for my coaching team for helping me get this far so far in my skating career, and I’m just very proud to be where I am,” Levito said on USA Network.

American Amber Glenn was 12th in her world debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.

The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.

Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.

Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.

“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”

Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.

“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the ISU, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.

Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!