Pacific Rim Championships

Simone Biles opens Olympic year with dominating Pacific Rims title

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EVERETT, Wash. (AP) —€” Simone Biles began her preparations for the Rio Olympics in dominant fashion Saturday night in the Pacific Rim Championships, winning the all-around title to lead the U.S. women to the team title.

The 19-year-old Biles, the three-time World all-around champion, finished first in the vault, balance beam and floor routine, and third in the uneven bars to win the all-around title with 62.45 points in her season debut.

Biles has won 11 straight all-around competitions dating to 2013, dwarfing streaks from past Olympic champions Gabby DouglasNastia LiukinCarly Patterson and Mary Lou Retton and every other U.S. gymnast in that span.

Aly Raisman, a three-time medalist at the 2012 Olympics who struggled last year in the World Championships, finished second at 59.90.

The U.S. swept the top five spots against a weak field. Fifteen-year-old Laurie Hernandez was third, followed by Brenna Dowell and Ragan Smith.

The U.S. won all four events en route to a team score of 243.200. Canada was second at 219.100, followed by Australia at 217.850.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air Pacific Rim Championships coverage on Sunday from 1-3 p.m. ET.

Biles was pleased with the floor routine, which drew a tremendous response from the crowd.

“I felt like it was pretty good,” Biles said. “I’ll go back and look at the video to see, but there’s still things to improve in the floor routine definitely, but you have to start somewhere and it’s good that I still have things to improve.”

She also was satisfied with her second vault, called the Cheng after three-time World champion Cheng Fei of China.

The vault, which Biles said she has performed well in practice, requires her to do a round off onto the board, followed by a back handspring with a half-twist onto the vault before finishing with 1 1/2 twists while simultaneously doing a layout.

“That was the first time I ever competed it, so it was good to get that out of the way,” Biles said. “For the first time competing it, I’m fairly happy with it.”

National team coordinator Martha Karolyi was pleased with Biles’ efforts, as well as those of the entire team.

“For her, it was very important to see if she’s able to perform her second vault,” Karolyi said. “That was really one of our goals, even before the World Championships. We planned on this and it was important to debut and do it.

“For anybody, it is a challenge to add a high difficulty new skill,” Karolyi added. “Also, she had new choreography on the floor. All these competitions are very important for us to make sure we introduce this new stuff early, so with time it comes with much more confidence and is more normal. The first time you maybe have a little jitters to make sure you will be able to perform, but she passed the test.”

Karolyi also was pleased with the performance of Raisman, who took almost two years off following the London Olympics.

“After the World Championships, she looked too hyper and a little bit out of control, which was unusual for her,” Karolyi said. “Our main goal was to calm her down and I think we achieved the goal. She looked very composed and very much in control of what she’s doing.”

“Now, we have to go for things to perfect and we are in a good place,” Karolyi said. “I think she’s absolutely on the right track.”

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Simone Biles opens Olympic year with changes at Pacific Rim Championships

Simone Biles
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She’s done “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” thing. The “Vogue” thing. The “get a massive shipment from Coca-Cola and Instagram it because it’s cool to be 19 and a professional athlete” thing.

Now, Simone Biles gets a chance to go out and do her thing — which she does better than any gymnast on the planet.

The three-time World all-around champion makes her 2016 debut on Saturday at the Pacific Rim Championships (NBC Sports Live Extra, 10 p.m.-midnight ET), a team competition in reality but a showcase for Biles in spirit and — she hopes — a springboard to Olympic gold.

Not that she wants to talk about it or anything.

“It stresses me out thinking about the Olympics, so why stress yourself out?” Biles said. “I just think of what’s next to come.”

This weekend includes unveiling a new floor routine and an upgraded second vault designed to make it that much harder for the rest of the world to catch her in Rio de Janeiro in August. Of course, Biles demurs when asked to discuss her chances of making history in Brazil. Last she checked, the U.S. team won’t be named for another three months, and she’s not taking anything for granted no matter how high she soars.

Imagine Usain Bolt saying that.

And in a very real sense the relentlessly dynamic teenager from the Houston suburbs has spent the quadrennium since the London Games serving as her sport’s version of Bolt, collecting a record 14 World Championships medals and doing it using a formula that seems borderline unfair. Biles doesn’t just put together the hardest routines. She executes them better than contemporaries doing challenging but slightly less difficult sets.

“I think she needs to compete with the men to make it fair,” 1984 Olympic champion Mary Lou Retton said.

Retton is kidding, but only a little. Biles doesn’t just win, she typically dominates. There have been few close calls during a winning streak that started with her first national championship in 2013 and she heads to floor of the XFINITY Arena in Everett, Wash., rested after a five-month break, part of a carefully calibrated plan for 2016 that will — barring injury — have Biles peaking by mid-summer.

Of course, Biles has been peaking for the better part of three years. It’s an incomparable run of success in a sport where windows of greatness are typically limited to months.

“I don’t think there’s anyone close,” Retton said.

Yet Biles refuses to play it safe. There’s a competitive restlessness to her that demands coach Aimee Boorman and national team coordinator Martha Karolyi find ways to keep her engaged. It’s why she’s debuting her third different floor routine in three years this weekend while throwing in a new secondary vault to go with an Amanar that is right there with two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney in “OMG” factor.

Named after three-time World champion Cheng Fei of China, the vault requires Biles to do a round off onto the board followed by a back handspring with a half-twist onto the vault before finishing with 1 1/2 twists while simultaneously doing a layout.

Sounds kind of impossible. Biles stressed she’s landed it “every single time” over the last few months but is curious to see how it will play under the lights, concerned about how far she’ll be bent over when she lands.

If the way drilled it during practice on Wednesday — powering down the runway and effortlessly twisting through the air — is any indication, she should be just fine.

If anything, getting back to competition will give her a sense of normalcy. She’s spent the downtime since her triumphant two weeks in Scotland last fall trying to find a balance between preparing for Rio, fulfilling sponsor obligations and trying to make time for herself.

Chasing gold while taking time to still be 19 can be tough, but it does have its perks. Her deal with Coke includes a stack of cases that combined would tower over her 4-foot-9 frame.

After another fistful of medals at worlds, Ellen DeGeneres finally called and asked Biles to stop by, an invitation Biles coveted for years. The spot included the two chatting about Biles’ 32-hour-a-week training, her crush on actor Zac Efron (with DeGeneres offering her an Efron-inspired leotard) and footage of Biles climbing up a 30-foot rope using only her arms with a speed that would make the most ardent Crossfitter blush. She finished it off with a watered down exhibition on the balance beam, the equivalent of LeBron James in a layup-line.

On Saturday night, however, it’s back to the one place she feels most at ease even as the spotlight grows brighter by the day.

“There’s a lot more eyes on me, but I don’t focus on the stress everyone puts on me,” she said. “I’m the only one that can control what happens when I go out there. I feel more confident in my routines, but there are always days in the gym where it’s a mess and I’m like really? But other days go smoothly and I feel confident. I’m normal. I’m 19.”

VIDEO: Biles on Ellen DeGeneres Show

Simone Biles joined by U.S. star gymnasts on Pacific Rims roster

Simone Biles, Aly Raisman
AP
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Three-time World all-around champion Simone Biles will be joined by Worlds teammates Aly RaismanMaggie Nichols and Brenna Dowell on the U.S. roster for the Pacific Rim Championships on Saturday and Sunday in Everett, Wash.

The rest of the team includes 2014 World Championships team member Ashton Locklear and Laurie Hernandez, the reigning U.S. junior all-around champion who was born in 2000 and is age-eligible for the Rio Olympics.

It will mark Biles’ first competition since capturing four gold medals at a second straight World Championships the last week of October in Glasgow, Scotland.

Biles’ participation in Pacific Rims (Friday through Sunday) was first announced in December. The women’s team and all-around finals are Saturday. Individual event finals are Sunday.

Pacific Rims coverage will air Saturday from 10 p.m.-midnight ET on NBC Sports Live Extra and Sunday from 1-3 p.m. ET on NBC and Live Extra.

U.S. gymnasts are gearing up for the P&G Championships and Olympic trials, after which the five-man and five-woman Olympic teams will be named.

June 3-5 — Men’s P&G Championships; women’s Secret Classic, Hartford
June 23-26 — Men’s Olympic trials; women’s P&G Championships, St. Louis
July 8-10 — Women’s Olympic trials, San Jose

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