Simone Biles, Sam Mikulak
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Three thoughts from U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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Three thoughts off a U.S. Gymnastics Championships that saw Simone Biles swiftly, powerfully, insert adverb reclaim the throne and Sam Mikulak match her national title for national title … 

1. An all-timer for Simone Biles
After Biles retires, which as of now will be at the Tokyo Games, this fifth national title may trail only the Olympics on her remember-when list of all-around performances.

Only once before has Biles been so dominant to win by an event-record margin with the highest scores on every apparatus.

At the 2015 American Cup, Biles nearly doubled the previous record margin, winning by 4.467 points in a one-day competition (Biles won nationals by 6.55 over two days). But this year’s nationals field was without a doubt stronger than the American Cup.

While Biles was challenged in the last quad — Katelyn Ohashi and Kyla Ross beat Biles in two of her first three senior competitions in 2013; Romanian Larisa Iordache made the 2014 World Championships interesting — there is nobody in the world who appears up to the task at the moment.

Biles’ worst all-around score of her three days of competition in her comeback (58.7 with an uneven bars fall) is still better than anybody else in the world since Rio.

At worlds, she should break Svetlana Khorkina‘s record with a fourth all-around title to extend a five-year win streak.

The only gymnast to have a longer run of major-event dominance is 18-time Olympic medalist Larisa Latynina, who won every Olympic, world and European all-around title from 1956 through 1962, save the 1959 Euros, which she appears to have sat out following childbirth.

GYM NATIONALS: Women’s, men’s results

2. The U.S. women are loaded
It’s so hard to predict far ahead in this sport. Promising gymnasts can turn senior elite at the beginning of an Olympic cycle and retire before the Games. There are no junior world championships (though that soon will change). So in 2016, as great as the Americans were, it wasn’t clear just how long they would stay at the top.

Halfway through this Olympic cycle, it appears the only changes are in the names who will stand with Biles on the gold-medal podium step at worlds in October.

Morgan Hurd and Riley McCusker counted zero falls between two days at nationals. One of them will likely join Biles on the all-around podium at worlds (an American always has). Jade Carey earned world silver medals on vault and floor exercise last year in her first year as an elite gymnast.

The teams at worlds are five women each, but the Americans have the luxury of using their fifth spot purely on a gymnast with the best chance at an apparatus medal.

The team will be named after an October selection camp.

MORE: Biles comments on statement-making leotard

3. The U.S. men must dig deep
Sam Mikulak 
and Yul Moldauer (when healthy) represent the best U.S. one-two all-around punch in several years, but the depth is not there right now. Mikulak is the only active man with Olympic experience.

Of the rest of the 2017 World Championships team, only Donnell Whittenburg competed at nationals. He was limited to two events after shoulder surgery and left off the eight finalists for the five-man world team.

When the Americans line up for team qualifying at worlds in Doha, Mikulak will be the only one who has been in that situation before. Moldauer and Marvin Kimble competed at 2017 Worlds where there was no team event.

Though Kimble missed nationals due to injury, he arguably became more valuable to the program last week, especially given the awful Thursday competition. He can contribute in a three-up, three-count team final on high bar (where the only man to crack 14 at nationals was Mikulak (14.7)) and two or three other events. His gym said Saturday that he was already back training.

The U.S. team will be named after a September selection camp. It will go to Doha as an underdog for a medal behind at least Japan, China and Russia.

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GYM NATIONALS: Where Are The Final Five?

Simone Biles wins every gold medal at U.S. Championships

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BOSTON — All the gold medals for Simone Biles.

Biles, in the second meet of her comeback, won her record fifth U.S. all-around title and swept the four apparatus titles, combining scores from Friday and Sunday at TD Garden.

She never thought it would be possible, but she also wants to work on pre-meet nerves, consistency and confidence.

“I’d give it a B-plus,” Biles told Andrea Joyce on NBC.

The four-time Rio Olympic gold medalist became the first woman to win all five golds at the national gymnastics championships since Dominique Dawes in 1994.

She won the all-around by 6.55 points over 2017 World all-around champion Morgan Hurd, the largest margin since the perfect-10 system was thrown out in 2006. That gap is larger than that separating Hurd from the 11th-place gymnast.

“I knew I was capable of [scoring this well], but I kind of thought I was going to be a nervous wreck and maybe fall apart,” said Biles, who wore a teal mint leotard in part to stand with fellow Larry Nassar sexual-abuse survivors (teal ribbons were worn at NCAA meets in the winter and spring). “Going into these events, I know I kept telling my family like I don’t know if I’m going to be able to calm myself down the way I did before and handle the nerves, but so far, so good.”

Biles led by 3.1 points after a dominant first day Friday.

At 21, she is the first non-teen to win the U.S. women’s all-around since 1971.

“She’s just in another league almost,” third-place Riley McCusker said. “I’m honestly just in awe of her.”

GYMNASTICS NATIONALS: Results | Biles explains teal leotard meaning

After Rio, Biles took 14 months before returning to training last November under new coaches Cecile and Laurent Landi. She returned to competition three weeks ago, winning the U.S. Classic with an uneven bars fall.

No falls over two days at nationals. Just three floor exercise passes that went out of bounds (because of Biles’ otherworldly tumbling power), plus small errors on uneven bars and balance beam Sunday. Biles won her first national title on uneven bars, the only event on which she did not earn a medal in Rio or at any world championships.

Before Biles, the Landis were known for coaching Madison Kocian to uneven bars silver in Rio. Laurent Landi recognized perhaps the biggest obstacle in Biles’ comeback is not among her competition or any apparatus, but between the ears.

“To handle the pressure, to handle the media, to handle everybody, all the expectation, that’s mentally draining,” he said.

Biles has repeated this spring and summer that she feels like a better gymnast than in Rio. The Texan is on a five-year win streak with the only end in sight being her planned retirement after the Tokyo Olympics.

“Confidence-wise and consistency, I still think we have a ways to go to get back up to where I was in Rio, but gymnastics-wise, [better than in 2016],” Biles said. “I think I’m finally starting to get it and understand it. I’ve understood gymnastics for a while now, but I think it’s really sinking in.”

Biles is a shoo-in for October’s world championships team. The five-woman squad will be named after an October selection camp.

Hurd and McCusker are also in great position. Jade Carey, the 2017 World silver medalist on floor exercise and vault, could be a contributor on both events at worlds in Doha.

Ragan Smith, who won the 2017 U.S. all-around in Biles’ absence, is in danger of missing that team. She finished 10th in the all-around, competing with broken toes and lingering pain from an ankle injury that knocked her out of the 2017 Worlds, where she was the favorite.

No doubting who the favorite is this year. Biles owns the world’s best all-around score since Rio by more than two points. Could she sweep the gold medals as she did at nationals?

“It’s irrelevant,” Laurent Landi said. “I think you just need to do what she today … and see what we get at the end. We don’t aim to win. I think it’s bad to think about winning. I think it’s much more important to think about what she needs to accomplish for herself. If at the end she wins, then she wins.”

Aly Raisman, who staged her own successful comeback to make the Rio Olympics, told Biles on Saturday night that she’s not human. Biles was asked Sunday what her international competitors must be thinking.

“Maybe that I should probably quit,” she said, followed by giggles.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Biles fell off the balance beam at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago. She fell off the uneven bars.

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GYM NATIONALS: Where Are The Final Five?

Simone Biles routing field, edging note card at U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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BOSTON — Simone Biles leads the field by a whopping 3.1 points halfway through the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. She beat the number at the bottom of the note card in her locker at the World Champions Centre in Texas by a much smaller margin.

No matter the perspective, Biles was more dominant on Friday night than during most of the Rio Olympic cycle. In just her second meet in two years. Nine months after returning to training after a 14-month break.

Biles tallied the highest score on every apparatus in the field and the world’s highest all-around score since Rio — 60.1 points. The second-highest score since Rio? Biles’ 58.7 from her comeback meet at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago.

“At Classics, I was still easing back into everything and kind of feeling the surroundings and getting used to competing again,” Biles, 21, said on the fifth anniversary of her first U.S. all-around title. “I feel like today I really embraced it.”

NATIONALS: Scores | TV/Stream Schedule

In the last Olympic cycle, Biles averaged a 1.94-point lead after the first day of nationals.

She rolls into the final day of competition Sunday, looking to become the first woman to win five U.S. all-around titles and the first non-teen to win since 1971. And send another message ahead of October’s world championships.

Morgan Hurd, who won the 2017 World all-around title in Biles’ absence, is in a distant second after four clean routines. The margin between Biles and Hurd is greater than the margin between Hurd and the eighth-place gymnast.

Asked to put her 60-pointer in perspective, Biles brought up the note card.

“I think it says 60 at the bottom,” said Biles, who hit 62.366 in Rio under a different scoring system.

Biles hit 60 points in a practice meet at her gym right before she left for the U.S. Classic. Her new coaches, Cecile and Laurent Landi, encouraged Biles to keep the visual reminder placed in her locker leading up to nationals.

“I wanted to show her that she could reach that score,” Laurent Landi said. “It’s not a big deal. If she does normal, she can be there.”

But nobody else can. Biles had 25.4 total points in difficulty on Friday. The next-highest gymnast (Hurd) had 22.7.

Biles essentially began the meet with a 2.7-point head start. She then was judged to have better overall execution than everybody else, even though she had the disadvantage of performing harder routines.

“She’s just mentally there,” said Riley McCusker, who led Biles going into the last rotation at the U.S. Classic and is in third place here. “She can take that time off and [be] physically there, too.”

BILES ROUTINES: Balance Beam | Floor Exercise | Uneven Bars | Vault 1 | Vault 2

Biles’ flaw in her comeback meet three weeks ago was the uneven bars. She fell trying a more difficult routine than in Rio.

On Friday, Biles nailed her bars set, receiving applause from Laurent Landi, who coached Madison Kocian to a bars silver in Rio.

Biles has never won a national title on bars. At the Olympics, she had the highest scores in the all-around on beam, floor and vault and the seventh-highest score on bars.

“She needs to go through more mental belief that she [belongs] at this level on the bars,” said Laurent Landi, a 40-year-old former French gymnast.

Landi insisted Biles was not at her best Friday. He noted her two overcooked tumbling passes on floor that cost her six tenths for going out of bounds. Imperfect landings on other events. He dismissed Biles’ lead and said he already has plans for upgraded routines before worlds, next year and possibly in the Olympic year.

“Sometimes when it’s difficult in the gym, we, my wife and I, try just to remind her who she’s trying to beat,” he said. “It’s herself.”

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GYM NATIONALS: TV/Stream Schedule | Where Are The Final Five?