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Simone Biles touched by fan support after triumphant return to mat

Simone Biles competed in her first gymnastics event since the 2021 Tokyo Olympics over the summer. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — When Simone Biles was introduced to the crowd at the beginning of the Core Hydration Classic on Saturday night, she ran out, waved to the crowd, and then paused, looking around the floor exercise mat for some guidance. She wasn’t sure where she was supposed to stand as the rest of the competitors were announced. A fellow gymnast waved her over, Biles laughed, and she headed to the edge of the mat.

It was the last time she didn’t look at home on the gymnastics floor. Biles scored a 59.100 to win her first all-around competition since the 2021 Olympic Trials. Starting on the uneven bars, Biles scored a 14.000. Just before her dismount, Biles lost her form and had to muscle back into position before doing her full-twisting double back.

The break on bars was the biggest mistake Biles had on Saturday night. On balance beam and floor exercise, she was steady and aggressive, just as the four-time Olympic gold medalist has always been. For vault, Biles showed she was just as capable of doing the high-flying Yurchenko double pike as she was in 2021. Though she landed off-center, she scored a massive 15.400 thanks to the vault’s difficulty.

The sold-out NOW Arena in suburban Chicago erupted in cheers for every move Biles made, whether it was warming up a vault or dancing with her friend and teammate Jordan Chiles. They chanted her name as she spoke with the media, and stayed well after the meet was over to show their appreciation.

“I think what shocks me the most is, everyone’s so supportive, like in the crowd, all of the girls, all of the signs, like after everything that transpired in Tokyo, and obviously, you know, they ‘at me’ in all those tweets and stuff, so I get a lot of that stuff. But the amount of outpouring love and support that I had on Twitter, on Instagram, and in the arena was just really shocking,” she said.

“And surprising to me that they still have so much belief in me, they still love me, and it just makes my heart warm, because it’s nice to come out here and have all that support, especially in a time like this where I was, like really nervous to compete again. But everyone, I can’t ask for more.”

The Classics were Biles’ first competition back since she pulled out of the Olympic team competition with “twisties,” a type of mental block gymnasts sometimes deal with that prevents them from knowing where they are in the air.

Since then, she’s spoken out on the importance of mental health for athletes. In her personal life, Biles married Green Bay Packers safety Jonathan Owens. She returned to training in 2022. According to her coach Cecille Landi, Biles stepped up her training after the wedding this spring.

“I had dinner with her, and it was this year and she told me she really wanted to get a chance to do it. After that, I would say after the wedding. Once everything was over, then we saw a shift in her training and commitment to being back,” Landi said on Friday.

Competing at the Classics was Biles’ first step back on the road to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

With her win Saturday, she qualified for the U.S. championships in San Jose at the end of August. Then, the country’s top gymnasts will take part in a selection camp to decide who will represent the United States at the world championships in Antwerp in October. She joked when asked whether she’s thinking about her plans for the Olympics.

“Right now, I think I should just embrace what happened today. Be happy for me, for my teammates. We’ll go into championships in a couple of weeks and work on those tweaks that we had today, but I’m in a really good spot and who knows? I’m not gonna think so far ahead,” Biles said.

“It’s just like when you get married, they ask you when you’re having a baby. You come to Classics, and they’re asking you about the Olympics. I think we’re just trying to take it one step at a time.”

Biles wasn’t the only star to make a big step back to competition at Classics. Sunisa Lee, the 2021 Olympic All-Around champion, did the vault and beam. After Lee finished on the beam, her first event back at the elite level since dealing with a kidney condition, she hugged her trainer and sobbed. She said on Friday that her biggest goal was to qualify for the U.S. championships, and she did just that with a 14.500 on beam and a 13.500 on vault.

“I think it went really well tonight. I’m super proud of myself for pushing. There were times when thought I wouldn’t be able to do this, but I definitely got over the fear and the doubt. I thought, I’m just going to put myself on the floor, let myself have fun. I think that’s exactly what I did,” Lee said after the meet.

Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles, 2021 Olympians, already qualified for the U.S. championships because they were on the 2022 world championship team that won gold. Still, they competed at Classics to help prepare them for the elite season. Since the Olympics, both have been competing at the college level, with Carey at Oregon State and Chiles at UCLA. Carey scored a 13.900 on beam, and Chiles scored a 13.900 on bars and 12.800 on beam.

Maggie Hendricks is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also covers women’s sports for Bally Sports. Follow her on Twitter @maggiehendricks.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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