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Biles returns to Olympic competition, wins bronze on beam

TOKYO (AP) – Simone Biles found something a little more manageable than the weight of the world.

Bronze.

The American gymnastics superstar earned her seventh Olympic medal and second in Tokyo with a third-place finish in the balance beam final on Tuesday, a week after she took herself out of several competitions to deal with a mental block that prevented her from twisting while performing.

Biles drilled a slightly watered-down version of her usual routine in front of a crowd that included IOC President Thomas Bach. The bronze – matching the one she captured in Rio de Janeiro five years ago – moved her into a tie with Shannon Miller for the most Olympic medals by an American gymnast.

“This definitely feels sweeter than Rio’s bronze medal on beam because I did a good beam routine,” she said.

Biles, using a double-pike dismount – no twisting required – posted a score of 14.000. That was good enough for bronze behind the Chinese duo of gold medalist Guan Chenchen (14.633) and Tang Xijing (14.233).

“I had nerves but I felt pretty good,” she said.

Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee of the United States finished fifth. The 18-year-old Lee won three medals in Tokyo, including silver in the team final and bronze on uneven bars.

Biles pulled out of competition earlier in the Tokyo Games, saying she felt “the weight of the world” on her 4-foot-8 frame. She shoved it aside to reach the podium for the 32nd time in major international competition.

Biles arrived on the floor about 90 minutes before the competition started, wearing a red, white and blue leotard emblazoned with nearly 5,000 crystals. If she was nervous, it hardly showed. She warmed up as if it was just another day back in the gym her family owns in the northern Houston suburbs. Twice she hopped onto the beam to do a run-through of her routine and she stuck her double-pike dismount to applause from the stands and the whir of dozens of cameras.

Biles arrived in Tokyo as the face of the U.S. contingent in Japan and perhaps the Games themselves. Yet the brilliance she’s summoned so easily for so long during her run atop the sport came undone after qualifying on July 25.

She bailed out of her vault during the first rotation of the team finals on July 27, then stunningly removed herself from the competition as a matter of protection because she was having difficulty locating herself in the air. She later described the phenomenon as “the twisties” and subsequently pulled out of the all-around, uneven bars, floor exercise and vault finals.

The decision amplified increased attention on the importance of mental health in sports in general and among Olympians specifically. Add it to the growing list of movements the 24-year-old Biles has become a touchstone for during her rise to stardom.

She’s spent the last week continuing to train and be evaluated by team physician Dr. Marcia Faustin while doubling as lead cheerleader for a U.S. women’s team that has racked up some serious hardware in her absence.

“Put your health and safety first above all things,” Biles said.

Lee became the fifth straight American woman to capture the all-around title and added a bronze on uneven bars. MyKayla Skinner, placed into the vault final after Biles scratched, soared to silver. On Monday, Jade Carey’s long journey to the Olympics ended with a victory on floor exercise after Biles gave her a pep talk following a nightmarish vault performance in which she tripped at the end of the runway and narrowly avoided serious injury.

Her return to competition on beam served as a fitting ending to her Olympic experience. She earned bronze on the event in Brazil five years ago thanks in part by reaching down to grab the 4-inch piece of wood after she slipped. The decision cost her gold but assured her of a fifth medal and the one, in retrospect, she said she’s most proud of.

While she hasn’t officially announced her retirement – she’s hinted that she might want to stick around in some fashion until the 2024 Paris Games to honor coaches Laurent and Cecile Landi, who are both French – a long layoff awaits. She’s headlining a post-Olympic tour through the fall but stressed recently she plans to stay close to the sport.

“I just need to process this Olympics first,” Biles said.

If Tuesday night was her official goodbye, she did it on her terms. Just like she has for most of an eight-year elite career that pushed the boundaries of gymnastics and saw her achieve the kind of crossover success typically reserved for sprinters like Usain Bolt and swimmers like Michael Phelps.

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Olympic champ Biles withdraws from all-around competition

TOKYO (AP) — Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic title.

The American gymnastics superstar withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready.

Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals.

The organization said Biles will be evaluated daily before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events. Biles qualified for the finals on all four apparatuses, something she didn’t even do during her five-medal haul in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The 24-year-old came to Tokyo as arguably the face of the Games following the retirement of swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. She topped qualifying on Sunday despite piling up mandatory deductions on vault, floor and beam following shaky dismounts.

She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. The weight became too heavy after vaulting during team finals. She lost herself in mid-air and completed 1 1/2 twists instead of 2 1/2. She consulted with U.S. team doctor Marcia Faustin before walking off the field of play.

When she returned, she took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles and turned into the team’s head cheerleader as the U.S. claimed silver behind the Russian Olympic Committee.

“Once I came out here (to compete), I was like, ‘No mental is, not there so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,’” Biles said following the medal ceremony.

The decision opens the door wide open for the all-around, a title that was long considered a foregone conclusion. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil finished second to Biles during qualifying, followed by Lee and Russians Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova. The four were separated by three-tenths of a point on Sunday.

Carey now finds herself in the final, capping a remarkable journey for the 21-year-old from Phoenix. She spent two years traveling the globe in an effort to pile up enough points on the World Cup circuit to earn an individual nominative spot, meaning she would be in the Olympics but technically not be part of the four-woman U.S. team.

Carey posted the second-best score on vault and the third-best on floor during qualifying, earning trips to the event finals in the process. Now she finds herself competing for an all-around medal while replacing the athlete considered the greatest of all-time in the sport.

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Olympic champ Simone Biles injured, out of team finals

TOKYO (AP) — Reigning Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles is out of the team finals after apparently sustaining an injury during the vault.

The 24-year-old U.S. star, considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time, huddled with a trainer after landing her vault. She then exited the competition floor with the team doctor.

Biles returned several minutes later. She took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Grace McCallum, Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles before putting on a jacket and sweatpants.

The Americans will be forced to finish the rest of the competition without her, severely hampering their bid to claim a third straight Olympic title.

The U.S. began finals on vault, with Biles going last. She was supposed to do an “Amanar,” a vault that begins with a roundoff back handspring onto the table followed by 2 1/2 twists. She seemed to change her mind in mid-air, doing just 1 1/2 twist instead.

She walked off the podium and was tended to by team doctor Marcia Faustin before making her way out of the arena.

Biles arrived in Tokyo as the unquestioned star of the Games but struggled, at least by her high standards, during qualifying. In a social media post on Monday, she admitted she felt like the weight of the world was on her shoulders and that the Olympics “were no joke.”

Biles won five medals in Rio de Janeiro five years ago and had a chance to actually top that after advancing to all five finals. It remains to be seen whether she will be available for the all-around final on Thursday night and the event finals later in the Games.

After two rotations, the United States trails ROC 2.5 points.

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The legacy of Olympian Archie San Romani lives on through Frontenac's athletes, community members

FRONTENAC, Kan. — Archie San Romani is one of the most successful athletes in Frontenac’s history. The track star established himself as one of the top milers in the world during the latter half of the 1930s. But over time, his remarkable story seemed to be somewhat forgotten.

It’s been almost 90 years since track legend Archie San Romani left his mark on the Frontenac High School track and field program.

“It’s a pretty like elite group of people that have been to the Olympics,” said member of the Frontenac High School track and field team Tallon Bonine. “So I mean, to have somebody like that from our town that’s been and be able to chase after that record is pretty cool.”

The school record San Romani set in the mile back in 1932 has yet to be broken.

“We’re proud of our record board here in the track program and we stress to our kids, you know, let’s try to get up there if we can get up there,” said Frontenac Assistant track and field coach John Palubo. “That’s why records are made.”

It’s something the program’s middle distance runners have been chasing ever since.

“It’s a good motivation to chase after an Olympic athlete,” said member of the Frontenac High School track and field team Brady Stanley. “To know that that’s where the bar is set and that’s where you have to go.”

While his record, pictures and plaques hang in the halls at Frontenac high school, outside of the track and field program, the legacy of San Romani — a national champion and Olympian faded over time.

Once his career ended and his family moved away from Frontenac, his story became less known, even in his hometown.

“He lived away you know, and then when his mom and dad passed away, there was really no family left around here anymore,” said John Kotzman, who lived near the San Romani family when he was young. “So, a lot of the up and coming young kids that went to Frontenac schools really never heard of him.”

He wanted to make sure San Romani’s contributions to the sport were know beyond just his hometown.
So he helped get San Romani inducted into the Kansas sports hall of fame in 2004.

“It’s a tribute to what he accomplished,” said Kotzman. “It’s good to keep those things. I think it’s very important for the heritage of the town.”

From a virtually unknown runner to all-time great miler, the journey of Archie San Romani embodies the spirit of the small coal mining town that shaped him. That spirit still exists in today’s athletes looking to break his longstanding record.

“It’s gonna happen eventually,” said Palumbo. “Someone’s gonna get it. We tell them why not you?”

San Romani is a perfect example of that. He spent his entire track career defying the odds. Whether his record ever gets broken and matter how much time passes, he’ll always be remembered as a champion, an Olympian and beloved son of Frontenac.

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From Frontenac to the world stage: A look back at Archie San Romani's rise to track stardom

FRONTENAC, Kan. — Who could have predicted that from this small coal mining town, a track star would emerge — one would leave his mark on his town and on the sport.

“Well, I think in the history of track and field, Archie San Romani is just a legend,” said Emporia State Cross Country coach Mark Stanbrough.

His running career began in a rather gruesome way. At eight years old, he was ran over by a truck and suffered a serious leg injury. Doctors initially thought his leg would have to be amputated. But one doctor wouldn’t let that happen and his leg eventually healed.

“Suffering a childhood injury and being able to overcome that and persevere through it and compete with the best in the world I think is really inspirational,” said Frontenac Historian Brady Hill.

San Romani rose to prominence during his time at emporia state university, formerly known as Kansas State Teachers College. There, he won the national collegiate mile in 1935, the 1500-meter run in 1936 and was a part of the distance medley relay team, setting a new world record that same year.

“I think he kind of set the stage for milling success in Kansas,” said Stanbrough.

His performance earned him an invitation to the U.S. Olympic trials in New York, although many considered it a longshot for him to actually make the team. He finished second to fellow Kansan Glenn Cunningham in the 1500 meter race, but it was enough to get the son of a coal miner from southeast Kansas to the world’s biggest stage.

San Romani gave it his all in the 1936 Olympics and ultimately finished fourth.

After the Olympics, San Romani got even better. In 1937, he went on to win a series of races that propelled him to the top of the sport.

“As a senior, San Romani beat all the guys that beat him in the Olympic games and really became the number one miler in the world and just a legendary figure that went on to set the world record in the 2000 meters and become the top miler in the world,” said Stanbrough.

He continued competing up until 1940 with the hopes of returning to the Olympics. But those hopes wouldn’t be realized. The games were cancelled that year due to world war II. San Romani decided to hang up his running shoes for good.

“To have a world-renowned athlete from your hometown from a small town like we are is really cool to know that you can go out and accomplishment anything and he certainly did that,” said Hill.

His career may have been brief, but his accomplishments will live on forever.