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USA gymnasts to watch on the road to 2024 Paris Olympics

Simone Biles is back in contention for the 2024 Paris Olympics, along with many other Team USA hopefuls. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Simone Biles is officially back.

At the Core Hydration Classics in suburban Chicago on Saturday night, she looked as comfortable as she ever has on the mat. Competing in her first gymnastics event since the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Biles easily won the all-around title as well as the gold for vault, beam and floor. On the uneven bars, often considered her weakest event, she took second.

Between events, the four-time Olympic gold medalist danced with her teammates and did a synchronized celebration with Jordan Chiles to celebrate her vault. According to Biles, though, looks were deceiving.

“I thought I was going to s–t bricks! I was very nervous. So at least if it looked like I was having fun, that’s good. But I think after every routine, it got a little bit easier. And usually my power events, vault and floor, before I go in, I’m like, ‘OK, I know I’m gonna make these,'” Biles said.

“I think this was the complete opposite in trainings. I’ve been making all my bar sets, all my beam sets. So that’s kind of a complete 180 for me. So to get out there on floor and vault, I was like, ‘Ooh, how’s this gonna go?’ I’ve been making them, but not as confident. So getting back in that groove and just having fun and remembering that I’m here for myself.”

Finding confidence is a big part of the Classics. Biles wasn’t the only gymnast who used this event to find a way back to the floor before the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Suni Lee, Chiles and Jade Carey — all Olympic medalists who have moved on to NCAA competition — competed to rediscover some comfort at the elite level again. Leanne Wong, an alternate for the 2021 Olympics, has been competing at the college level, as well. She took second at Classics, as she vies for a spot on the United States’ 2024 Olympic team.

What happens next?

Gymnasts will head to San Jose for the U.S. Championships at the end of August. That event will not only include the gymnasts who posted qualifying scores from Classics. Shilese Jones, who helped the U.S. team win gold at the World Championships in 2022 while also taking silver in the all-around and uneven bars, will be competing at the U.S. Championships because of her accomplishments at Worlds.

What does this mean for Paris?

Technically, the Classics the year before the Olympics don’t mean anything when it comes to choosing who will compete for the U.S. in Paris. However, since it’s a qualifier for the U.S. Championships, it’s not an event gymnasts take lightly. It’s a chance for them to get judged on their routines and figure out what needs to be tweaked as they move forward in the Olympic cycle. If the Olympics are the peak of a mountain range, think of the Classics as the foothills.

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Joscelyn Roberson placed third in the all-around at the U.S. Classic on Saturday. (Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Beyond the established names, who else should we look out for?

For gymnasts who have already won Olympic medals, the Classics were about finding their footing again and building confidence heading into the U.S. Championships and team selection camp for Worlds. For other gymnasts, this competition was about establishing themselves as a real threat to make the World Championship team and, eventually, the Olympic team.

Here are three American gymnasts to watch.

Joscelyn Roberson

When you see Roberson compete, Shawn Johnson’s powerful tumbling and vaults will come to mind. Roberson trains at the same gym as Biles and Chiles, and holds her own with Olympic teammates. She took third in the all-around on Saturday, and tied for second on floor, tied for third on beam and placed second on vault. Earlier this year, Roberson won medals at multiple international events. She’s committed to Arkansas for 2025, so she will continue to train with an eye on the Olympics.

Skye Blakeley

At just 18, Blakeley has an impressive resume. She was part of the gold-medal winning 2022 World Championships team, and she’s won medals at the Pan-American Championships. On Saturday, she tied for second on bars and third on beam. Though she’s committed to Florida, she is holding off on college to focus on Olympic training.

Kaliya Lincoln

The LSU-bound gymnast showed she has the talent to compete with the best the U.S. has to offer. On floor exercise and vault, Lincoln can fly while still keeping perfect form in the air. With extra training at LSU and WOGA, her home gym in Texas, Lincoln has the skills to make a run at the Olympic team.

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.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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