Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee highlight six U.S. women’s gymnasts for Tokyo Olympics

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Already the greatest gymnast of all timeSimone Biles has booked a return trip to the Olympic Games and will have the opportunity to build on her legacy in exactly one month.

The seven-time national champion became the first to win U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials twice for as far back as public records go.

Biles handily won the women’s all-around in St. Louis with a two-day total of 118.098 points, a margin of 2.66 over Sunisa Lee (115.832), who assured her Olympic debut by finishing second.

They will be joined on the team by Jordan Chiles, third at Trials with 114.631 points, and Grace McCallum, fourth with 112.564 points, who were named by a selection committee.

“I feel like I’ve been emotional this whole week,” Biles told NBC reporter Andrea Joyce. “I just can’t believe Olympic Trials is here again, I can’t believe I’m here again. It’s been a journey, and five years later we’re doing it again.”

MyKayla Skinner, who five years ago was an Olympic replacement athlete, was chosen to compete as an individual at the Olympics. Her best events are floor exercise and vault (for which she won bronze at the 2014 Worlds), though she was fifth in the all-around at Olympic Trials and first after the first day.

Riley McCusker was a favorite for that Olympic spot entering the final day, but she fell off her sole event — uneven bars — on Sunday.

Jade Carey will also compete as an individual. She locked in her spot, by name, in the spring of 2020 after winning the vault title at three World Cups. Carey should to make both the floor and vault finals, owning World Cup golds and world championship medals on both.

Carey and Skinner will have the option to compete as many of the events they choose in Olympic qualification.

GYMNASTICS TRIALS: Full Results | Men’s Recap

It has been a given for the past few weeks that Chiles — Biles’ great friend and World Champions Centre training mate — was a virtual lock for the team. In her breakout year, she has been third to Biles and Lee at the past two meets, and is the only one of the Olympic team to go 24 for 24 in clean routines this season.

Two-time world team member McCallum was consistent at Trials and moved up from fifth after the first day.

Biles, Lee, Chiles and McCallum will head to Japan with plans of earning the U.S. women’s third consecutive Olympic gold medal in the team event, a feat not seen since the Soviet Union won eight straight from 1952-1980.

“I think this four-person team has a lot of depth, so we should be set once we get over there [to Tokyo],” Biles told reporters.

Biles will be the only one of the six U.S. women competing in Tokyo with Olympic experience, just as Sam Mikulak is of the five men. At 24, she and Skinner will be the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s gymnasts since Annia Hatch (26) and Mohini Bhardwaj (25) in 2004.

Lee, meanwhile, becomes the first Hmong American on an Olympic gymnastics team.

The 18-year-old has consistently been the nation’s second-best to Biles since making her senior debut in 2019.

Lee won the 2019 U.S. all-around silver, uneven bars gold and floor bronze, then at the 2019 Worlds she made the all-around final and took silver on floor and bronze on bars.

Repeating her all-around silver and bars title at the 2021 U.S. Championships — while still recovering from a foot injury, Lee is now a favorite for Olympic gold on bars with one of the most difficult routines in the world.

“This means so much to me,” Lee said on the broadcast. “I’ve worked so hard for the past couple of years, and to just go on the floor and do everything I was supposed to do feels amazing.”

Lee won both the bars and balance beam titles at Trials.

Sunday’s victory did not come as easily for Biles as her astounding 25 previous all-around wins had over the last eight years.

Looking concerned and potentially nervous all night, she was unhappy with the hops she had on both vault landings as the competition began, though still had the highest vault scores.

In the second rotation, Biles’ legs separated on uneven bars and she took multiple steps on her landing.

She then moved to beam, and fell off that apparatus for the second time this season.

Biles was seen crying for several minutes while coach Laurent Landi taped her foot, causing speculation over a potential injury.

“I’m just old; I’m always in pain,” Biles explained at the end of the night. “Something always hurts.”

She ended what could potentially be the last domestic meet of her career on floor, leaving out a connection and twice going out of bounds — though she still had the highest floor score of the day.

“I was just really upset,” Biles told Joyce. “Everybody out here came, gave their heart, and I didn’t give my best performance, so that’s what I was most upset about.”

Biles already holds several records in the sport, but is expected to add to the list in Tokyo. She already has 25 world championship medals, more than any other male or female gymnast, and four skills named after her.

A fifth eponymous skill could come next month if Biles successfully competes the Yurchenko double pike vault she debuted at last month’s U.S. Classic.

After winning Olympic golds in the all-around, floor, team event and vault — and bronze on uneven bars — five years ago in Rio, Biles will become the most decorated U.S. Olympic gymnast with just three more medals.

Should she win five gold medals — which she did at the 2019 World Championships — Biles would be the first U.S. woman in any sport to do so at a single Games. That would also cause her to displace swimmer Jenny Thompson for most career Olympic gold medals by a U.S. woman.

Simply winning the all-around, which Biles has done at five world championships, would make her the first woman in 58 years to win that title twice.

A four-person replacement team was also named, consisting of 2019 U.S. junior champion Kayla DiCello, 2019 Worlds balance beam fourth-place finisher Kara Eaker, 2018 U.S. junior champion Leanne Wong and 2021 U.S. fourth-place finisher Emma Malabuyo. They placed sixth through ninth at Trials.

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here with redactions.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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