It’s Shilese Jones’ time at U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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TAMPA — A year ago, Shilese Jones placed 10th at the Olympic Trials, poured her heart out on Instagram and decided she was done with elite gymnastics.

After conversations with loved ones, notably her father, she changed her mind. Jones deferred University of Florida enrollment until 2024 because she has designs on the Paris Games.

The 20-year-old is off to a tremendous start in this abbreviated Olympic cycle. She leads the all-around after the first of two nights of competition at the U.S. Championships.

“I’ve been dreaming about it,” she said. “It was beautiful.”

Jones, who has never been to an Olympics or world championships, topped a field of global medalists. She tallied 57.2 points, distancing 17-year-old Konnor McClain by eight tenths going into Sunday, when national champions will be crowned.

Tokyo Olympic medalists Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey are third and fifth, respectively, returning solidly to elite competition for the first time since the Games. Like Jones and McClain, they hope to be part of the five-woman team for the world championships this fall. That roster will be named after an October selection camp.

GYMNASTICS NATIONALS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Jones, who had the top scores on balance beam and floor exercise, called it the best performance of her career. The lone all-around title on her USA Gymnastics bio came four years ago in a small meet in her senior debut.

Now, she is in position to become the oldest first-time U.S. women’s all-around champion in more than 50 years. She can join Simone Biles as the only non-teens to win nationals in that span.

Biles is on an indefinite break from competition. Suni Lee, the Tokyo all-around gold medalist, is competing collegiately and plans to return to the elite level next year.

Few U.S. female gymnasts get a second chance to make their first Olympic team. A bit on Jones’ journey:

Before last year’s Olympic Trials, she needed a three-to-four month recovery from a car accident. While driving around a traffic circle, Jones said somebody hit the front of her car. She suffered a fractured back and fractured foot.

She came back from that to place 10th at Olympic Trials. USA Gymnastics sent the top nine women to Tokyo — five team members and four alternates — plus Carey, who previously qualified. Jones was the highest finisher to be left home.

“My heart has been torn apart in such a way that it rejects to heal itself,” Jones shared in a since-deleted Instagram post. “I’ve given up everything to be where I’m at today.”

Five months later, Jones’ father, Sylvester, died after a long kidney disease battle. In a GoFundMe to help with funeral and travel expenses, Jones wrote that it was her dad’s “dream to see me on the Olympic stage one day and he devoted anything and everything to my gymnastics. Beat tired after a long day of dialysis to drive and pick me up from practices. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to support my gymnastics.”

Six months after his death, she shared on Instagram an image of a tattoo over her shoulder that read, “Dad Your name echoes in my heartbeat.”

“These last 6 months have been the hardest months in my life,” she wrote.

Jones’ family relocated about eight years ago from Seattle to Ohio to support her gymnastics career. They moved back to Washington in January to be closer to extended family. On Friday, she wore a leotard with the Roman numerals XII XX MMXXI written in pink down her sleeve, marking the day Sylvester died.

“Just to be here and have the opportunity to do that,” she said of her performances, three days after suffering a left big toe injury that stunted her prep, “especially for my dad and my sister and my mom and the audience, it feels amazing.”

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Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
Paris 2024
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The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
Lafayette
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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International Boxing Association lifts ban on Russia, Belarus

Boxing gloves
Getty
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The International Boxing Association (IBA) lifted its ban on amateur boxers from Russia and Belarus over the war in Ukraine that had been in place since early March.

“The IBA strongly believes that politics shouldn’t have any influence on sports,” the federation said in a press release. “Hence, all athletes should be given equal conditions.”

Most international sports federations banned athletes from Russia and Belarus indefinitely seven months ago, acting after an IOC recommendation. It is believed that the IBA is the first international federation in an Olympic sport to lift its ban.

The IOC has not officially changed its recommendation from last winter to exclude Russia and Belarus athletes “to protect the integrity of the events and the safety of the other participants.”

Last week, IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with an Italian newspaper that Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could at some point be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag.

IBA, in lifting its ban, will also allow Russia and Belarus flags and national anthems.

“The time has now come to allow all the rest of the athletes of Russia and Belarus to participate in all the official competitions of their sports representing their countries,” IBA President Umar Kremlev, a Russian, said in a press release last week. “Both the IOC and the International Federations must protect all athletes, and there should be no discrimination based on nationality. It is the duty of all of us to keep sports and athletes away from politics.”

In 2019, the IOC stripped the IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition following an inquiry committee report into finance, governance, refereeing and judging. The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

The IBA will not run qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Games, but it does still hold world championships, the next being a men’s event in Uzbekistan next year.

Boxing, introduced on the Olympic program in 1904, was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games but can still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” Bach said last December.

On Sept. 23, the IBA suspended Ukraine’s boxing federation, citing “government interference.” Ukraine boxers are still allowed to compete with their flag and anthem.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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