Still improving each time she competes, Simone Biles is far ahead at her second Olympic Trials

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Since the world first learned her name, Simone Biles has been leaps and bounds (slight pun intended) ahead of the field every time she competes — and yet the greatest gymnast of all time continues to improve.

Biles put out her best floor routine of the season — so far — on Friday night, the first day of women’s competition at the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials.

That’s saying something considering she had the highest floor exercise scores at both the U.S. Classic in May and the U.S. Championships earlier this month.

In an electrifying performance that included two eponymous skills, the five-time world floor champion scored 15.366 points; that’s 0.416 greater than her previous highest floor score this season and a full 1.116 points more than her floor score from U.S. Classic. The routine had a difficulty of 6.8, an astounding number, and Biles managed to stay in bounds throughout — something that proved to be a challenge at nationals, due to her amplitude and power.

“I feel like I’m going to remember staying in bounds [on floor], getting all my credit on beam, and just being out here with three of my [World Champions Centre gym] teammates,” Biles told NBC reporter Andrea Joyce. “It’s been a blast.”

GYMNASTICS TRIALS: Results | TV Schedule | Men’s Preview | Women’s Preview

To no one’s surprise, Biles leads in St. Louis halfway through the competition with an all-around score of 60.656 points. She is 2.899 points ahead of second-place Suni Lee (57.666).

For context on how much Biles has improved since 2016 — when she believed she was at her peak — her two-night winning total from Olympic Trials that year was just 2.1 points over Laurie Hernandez.

Biles also had the night’s highest scores on balance beam (15.133), which included her Biles dismount, and vault (15.466).

The five-time Olympic medalist (four are gold) still has room for increased difficulty and higher scores. She did not perform the Biles vault, nor what is expected to be dubbed the Biles II — a Yurchenko double pike she premiered at U.S. Classic.

Lee had the night’s best uneven bars score — 0.4 ahead of Biles’ — and should contend for the Olympic bars gold medal.

NBC commentator and Olympic medalist Tim Daggett called her performance, “the hardest bar routine, I believe, being done in the world today.”

In a tight race for minimal Olympic spots where a mere 0.834 points separate third through sixth place, Biles’ teammate and close friend Jordan Chiles sits in third with 57.132 points.

MyKayla Skinner (56.598), Grace McCallum (56.498) and Kayla DiCello (56.598) follow.

The men’s competition, currently led by Brody Malone, concludes Saturday and the women’s on Sunday.

The top two women’s all-around finishers will qualify to the Olympic team. A selection committee will then choose two others to join them; the team size in Tokyo is four — the smallest yet. The U.S. will also send two individual athletes who can compete on all apparatuses for qualification purposes, but their scores do not count toward the team event.

ON HER TURF: Why Biles is the GOAT

Biles and Lee finished 1-2 at both the 2019 and 2021 U.S. Championships and are poised to repeat that, which would earn them the automatic spots.

Chiles has been a consistent frontrunner for the team all season long, winning Winter Cup, placing second at U.S. Classic and third at U.S. Championships (where she was top-four on all events).

The fourth spot is more interesting.

Emma Malabuyo emerged as a favorite after vaulting to a surprising fourth at nationals two and a half weeks ago, but she currently sits in ninth in St. Louis.

Skinner, an alternate on the 2016 Olympic team, is steadily increasing her chances at a true Olympic debut. She left the elite ranks after Rio to compete collegiately for Utah for three seasons.

After initially intended to return as a specialist (she had the second-highest vault score of the night to Biles), the 24-year-old has been improving across all events.

Skinner was ninth at nationals but is in fourth so far at Trials; she held on to third place through the first three rotations.

“It was the best meet of her entire life,” 2008 Olympic all-around champion and NBC commentator Nastia Liukin said.

Two-time Olympic medalist Hernandez added, “This being her second Olympic Trials, it’s really interesting to watch her come back, and honestly I think she is even better than she was in 2016.”

In this year’s Olympic team final, three athletes will compete on each apparatus and all three scores will count. That’s why the four-person team is likely to include the U.S.’ best all-arounders.

While questions remain for rounding out the team, the rest of the Olympic picture became far more clear.

Jade Carey had locked in an individual spot — by name — via the World Cup series. She still had the option to compete for the four-person team, but if she were to make that team the U.S. would lose her individual spot.

After initially scratching from floor on Day 1, Carey did compete all-around but is sitting in 14th of 16 all-around athletes. She had the second-best vault score of the night (15.2).

It is now all but confirmed that Carey can no longer finish top-two and will not be selected to the team, so she will accept and fill the spot she earned.

The remaining individual spot will go to a gymnast who has medal potential in at least one event.

Riley McCusker is looking like the best candidate so far, as she had the second-highest score on uneven bars behind World silver medalist Lee and ahead of Biles.

McCallum, fifth in the all-around, was second on floor and should also be considered.

Aside from McCusker and McCallum (and Carey), the top three finishers on all four events are accounted for in the current top four in the all-around.

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IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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