Simone Biles wins seventh U.S. title, more than any woman in history

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In a career oozing with historic achievements, Simone Biles once again raised the bar when she won the women’s all-around with 119.65 points as the U.S. Gymnastics Championships concluded on Sunday in Fort Worth, Texas.

Now with seven U.S. titles – one from every senior nationals she has ever entered dating back to 2013 – Biles has more than any other woman in history. She was previously tied for six with Clara Schroth Lomady, whose were won between 1945 and 1952 when the AAU was the sport’s national governing body. Biles is now tied with Alfred Jochim (1925-1930; 1933) for most by any American.

The 24-year-old Biles has won every all-around competition she’s entered since the 2013 U.S. Championships.

“It’s really emotional, especially going into my second time doing an Olympic run,” Biles told NBC’s Andrea Joyce on NBCSN. “It’s really crazy.”

As she continues to gradually build up to the eventual defense of her Olympic all-around title, Biles has not been performing all of her most difficult skills, but has dominated nonetheless.

On both days of competition this week, she left out the double-double balance beam dismount named after her and the Yurchenko double pike vault she was the first woman to perform when she debuted it at U.S. Classic two weeks ago.

“We’re definitely going to do it at Trials,” she told media of the vault. “I didn’t do it at this competition because on Wednesday I jammed my ankles and they didn’t feel too good, so we just made a decision to not do it and not rush it so that I wouldn’t be too, too nervous.”

Biles had the highest combined scores on beam, floor exercise and vault; this is the fourth time she has won three or more event titles at nationals.

“I feel like every single championship stands out for a different reason, but this one stands out specifically because it’s the road to Tokyo,” Biles said.

Her floor routine, which includes two eponymous skills, is so far ahead of the rest of the field that Biles went out of bounds four times between both routines and still won that title by 1.5 points. She showed improvements on Sunday though, only going out of bounds once and scoring 0.3 more than Friday. Her all-around score was also 0.55 points higher on day 2.

Trailing Biles by 4.7 points was Suni Lee, runner-up in 2019 as well, with a 114.95 total, followed closely by Jordan Chiles‘ 114.45 points. Biles has won five of her national titles by a margin greater than four points.

Lee competed all-around for the first time since the 2019 World Championships, where she won silver on floor and bronze on uneven bars. She missed two months of training in 2020 when she broke a bone in her left foot, then another two months for left Achilles problems. The 18-year-old won her second national title on bars this week.

“I think this is a really good confidence booster because I wasn’t even at my full potential on floor, and obviously my vault could have been a little better and today my bars was a little rough,” Lee said. “It definitely helps my confidence because I know I don’t have to be 100 percent to be in the top with Simone, so I’m really proud of myself.”

Chiles, 20, is having a breakout year after placing sixth at the last nationals in 2019. A close friend and training mate of Biles’ at World Champions Centre in Spring, Texas, she won the Winter Cup in February and was second to Biles at last month’s U.S. Classic.

She said everything changed for her after moving from her hometown of Vancouver, Washington, to Texas in 2019 to train at Biles’ gym under coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi.

“When I moved to WCC, I had the worst lack of confidence in my whole gymnastics career, and I think just having the proper coaching and the proper teammates that can support you through everything definitely helps throughout your whole gymnastics and even in your life in general,” Chiles shared. “I honestly can’t thank Cecile and Laurent enough because they honestly are like the dopest people I’ve ever met in my life, and it’s crazy to see how I was in the past to now; I definitely can say my confidence is way better than it was back in the day.”

Biles has mentored and encouraged Chiles along the way.

“[After the meet] I told her that she had done it and she belongs here, and that we’re going to go to [Olympic] Trials and do the exact same thing because this is what we trained for,” Biles said. “I’m happy she got to go out there and show the world what she’s capable of because she deserves it.”

Olympic Trials will take place in less than three weeks — June 24-27 in St. Louis, Missouri — after which four athletes will be chosen to compete in the team event in Tokyo with a fifth athlete competing solely as an individual.

“The gymnast does not have to be an all-arounder,” high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster said of the additional, individual athlete. “Our goal is to provide our athletes with the most opportunities to win medals for themselves and for Team USA. We believe that we’re going to have our strongest all-arounders on the team. … Whoever is really stepping up and showing the best potential for winning a medal or medals will earn that [individual] spot.”

While Biles, Lee and Chiles are all favorites to make the Olympic team — especially with the top two finishers at Trials automatically qualifying — the battle for the fourth team spot is tight.

In Fort Worth, fourth through ninth place were separated by less than a point.

Emma Malabuyo finished fourth with 110.45 points — an impressive result for the 2017 U.S. junior silver medalist after her senior career had so far been marred by injuries; Malabuyo was seventh after Friday night’s competition.

“Clearly Emma Malabuyo was super impressive,” Forster noted. “She came out of a very, very low position at the U.S. Classic, and it’s great to see her back in her international form that she was in a couple years ago since she’s wrestled with a couple injuries here and there. … There were a couple of surprises today but I’d say she was the best surprise that we weren’t expecting.”

Leanne Wong (110.15), Jade Carey (110), Skye Blakely (109.55) and Grace McCallum (109.55) complete the top eight, all of whom automatically qualified to Olympic Trials. 2016 Olympic alternate MyKayla Skinner is also squarely in that mix, placing ninth with 109.5 points, just 0.95 from fourth after all eight routines.

Carey is the only American gymnast who has already secured a spot in Tokyo, which she did so by earning the maximum number of points on floor throughout the 2019-20 World Cup series. If she automatically qualifies for the four-person Olympic team at Trials (and chooses to accept that team spot), the U.S. will lose her individual spot and send one less gymnast to Tokyo.

It was announced after the competition that Skinner, Kara EakerKayla DiCelloShilese JonesEmily LeeAmari DraytonAva SiegfeldtAddison FattaZoe Miller and Riley McCusker were also invited to compete in St. Louis. Additional athletes can petition to Trials, a process that is still ongoing.

Among those who might petition are 2016 Olympic gold and silver medalist Laurie Hernandez, 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd and 2005 World all-around champion Chellsie Memmel.

Hernandez, who returned to competition in February for the first time since the Rio Olympics, hyperextended her knee during beam warm-ups on Friday and scratched from the remainder of that session after performing her beam routine in the first rotation. At the time she was hopeful for a return on day 2, but eventually withdrew from the meet altogether.

Hurd has had a rough time competing this spring since having her fifth and sixth elbow surgeries in March. She performed only beam and floor at both U.S. Classic and nationals, placing 26th and 23rd on the two, respectively, this week.

Memmel, a 2008 Olympian, competed for the first time in nine years at the U.S. Classic. Now a 32-year-old mother of two, she returned to training gymnastics purely for her love of the sport and was eventually convinced to make a competitive comeback, which has inspired many. Memmel had the fifth-highest single vault score on day 1 and was 13th overall on beam. She fell on her Arabian on beam on day 2, and also fell off bars both days — an event she won the world title on 18 years ago. After falling twice on bars on Sunday she chose not to finish the routine.

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Valencia Marathon produces historic times in men’s, women’s races

2022 Valencia Marathon
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Kenyan Kelvin Kiptum and Ethiopian Amane Beriso won the Valencia Marathon and became the third-fastest man and woman in history, respectively.

Kiptum, a 23-year-old in his marathon debut, won the men’s race in 2 hours, 1 minute, 53 seconds. The only men to ever run faster over 26.2 miles are legends: Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge (2:01:09 world record, plus a 2:01:39) and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele (2:01:41).

Kipchoge made his marathon debut at age 28, and Bekele at 31.

Beriso, a 31-year-old whose personal best was 2:20:48 from January 2016, stunned the women’s field Sunday by running 2:14:58. The only women to have run faster: Kenyans Brigid Kosgei (2:14:04) and Ruth Chepngetich (2:14:18).

Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey finished second in 2:16:49, the fastest-ever time for a woman in her marathon debut. Gidey is the world record holder at 5000m and 10,000m.

Valencia is arguably the top annual marathon outside of the six World Marathon Majors. The next major marathon is Tokyo on March 5.

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Aleksander Aamodt Kilde wins Beaver Creek downhill

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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde won his second straight World Cup downhill race to start the season, despite feeling under the weather.

Although dealing with an illness all week in training, Kilde powered through the challenging Birds of Prey course Saturday in a time of 1 minute, 42.09 seconds. It was enough to hold off Marco Odermatt of Switzerland by 0.06 seconds. James Crawford of Canada was third to earn his second career World Cup podium finish.

Kilde also won the opening downhill last weekend in Lake Louise, Alberta.

“It’s been a tough week,” Kilde said after the race. “I caught the flu in Lake Louise after a very, very nice weekend. It really hit me hard. Then I got a couple of days to rest and take it easy. … I felt OK. Still feeling it a little bit in my system.”

The Beaver Creek crew members had the course in solid shape a day after a downhill race was canceled due to high wind and snowfall.

ALPINE SKIING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Kilde reached speeds around 75 mph in picking up his eighth World Cup downhill victory. That tied him with Kjetil Jansrud for the third-most downhill wins in the World Cup discipline among Norwegian men. The total trails only Aksel Lund Svindal (14) and Lasse Kjus (10).

“I found a really, really good set-up with my equipment and also with my skiing,” Kilde explained. “I believe in myself. I trust in myself. I have a good game plan. When I stand on the start, I don’t dwell on anything. I know that this plan is what I do and when I do that it’s going to be fast.”

Odermatt has been on the podium in all four World Cup races this season as he tries to defend his overall World Cup title. The 25-year-old finished third in the opening downhill of the season last weekend. He’s also won a giant slalom race and a super-G.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wound up in seventh place for the top American finish. He was ninth in the downhill in Lake Louise.

“It’s been solid,” Cochran-Siegle said of his strides in the discipline. “A couple of little things here and there that pushed me off that top three. You have to ski with a lot of intensity and ski without abandon, in a sense. Today was a good step.”

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won the Olympic downhill gold medal at the Beijing Games last February, tied for ninth.

The Beaver Creek stop on the circuit comes to a close Sunday with a super-G race. Odermatt will be the favorite after holding off Kilde in the opening super-G last weekend.

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