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Simone Biles’ Olympic career may be over but experts say her influence will transcend gymnastics

Simone Biles walked away from the Tokyo Olympics with her head unbowed and her illustrious gymnastic career cemented.

The superstar left on her terms, after stepping away during the competition to focus on her mental health.

Although she is leaving the door open for a 2024 return, if Tokyo was her curtain call, then the questions turn to what is her legacy and what does the sport’s most recognizable gymnast do for a second act?

Experts say Biles, who is tied for the Olympic record for most medals won by an American gymnast, will transcend the sport, pushing for mental health and wellness, and ushering it past the last remnants of its darkest period — the Larry Nassar scandal.

Nassar, the USA Gymnastics team’s former doctor, was accused of sexually assaulting more than 120 girls. He pleaded guilty to sexually abusing 10 minors in Michigan court in 2018 and is serving up to 175 years in prison.

Biles, who said she is a survivor of Nassar’s abuse, has spoken out in the past about how it affected her, and said that her Olympics performance was “probably” affected by it.

She now has the opportunity to continue speaking out against sexual assault and promoting any other social banners she chooses to carry.

“I would say Simone’s legacy is actually far greater reaching than medal count, and her beginning to help facilitate the change of culture in our sport,” said Bob Neat, director of communications for the National Gymnastics Association.

He said Biles, who has 32 Olympic and world medals, will represent a shift toward advocating for more safety and better treatment of athletes and coaches.

Neat predicted she’ll become more outspoken and take on a bigger stage.

In Tokyo, Biles withdrew from the team all-around, the individual all-around, the vault, floor exercise and uneven bar events after struggling early on.

She cited the mental and emotional toll of competing in the Games as reasons for backing out.

“Physically, I feel good. I’m in shape,” she told Hoda Kotb on NBC’s “TODAY” show following her exit. “Emotionally, it varies on the time and moment. Coming to the Olympics and being head star isn’t an easy feat.”

Her decision drew harsh criticism from many who said she had quit on her team, and praise from mental health supporters who backed Biles, the most decorated gymnast in history, for knowing when to take time for herself.

Biles, a Black woman dominating a majority white sport, said she felt a lot of pressure heading into the international competition.

It’s “like the weight of the world on your shoulders,” she said. It’s a “little bit too heavy to carry,” but it helps to take a step back and focus on her mental health, she said.

At the time, the Olympian said she was dealing with the “twisties,” a phenomenon that can cause potential injury when gymnasts lose their sense of space and dimension midair — even if they have performed the same maneuver for years without problems.

Derrin Moore, founder of the Atlanta-based advocacy group Brown Girls Do Gymnastics, said Biles’ legacy will forever be tied to her decision in Tokyo.

“I feel before, her legacy was going to be about her ability and skill and showing brown girls you can be who you want to be,” Moore said. “But now that she bowed out of a lot of the Olympics, I think her legacy will be around mental health. As tough as she is, and as talented as she is, she still knew when she needed to take a break. I think that’s huge for her.”

Biles wasn’t afraid to push the envelope or be the greatest gymnast, which opens the door for more Black and brown girls to follow in her footsteps, she said.

Biles’ influence on the sport will likely grow through World Champions Centre, the Houston-area training facility her parents founded, where she will most likely mold the next wave of world-class gymnasts.

“Simone was one of the first people to open up a gym and coach the kids the way she wanted to be coached. Simone was always talented, but she always wanted to do more,” said Ashley Umberger, a 2001 USA national team gymnastics member.

Biles can lean on her experience to train future Olympic gymnasts, she said.

“You understand the training and mentality because you were the athlete. And once the athlete becomes the coach, it’s like another realm,” Umberger, who owns North Stars Gymnastics in New Jersey, said. “She’s going to have the feel of going to the Olympics, she’s going to have the experience of what it’s like to be an Olympic champion and what it feels like to make a mistake and come back.”

World Champions Centre has already had big successes.

Olympic gymnast Jordan Chiles, who nearly quit the sport before starting her training there in 2018, was Biles’ last-minute replacement this year, helping Team USA win a silver medal.

“I lived in a world where everything [was] strict, strict, strict,” Chiles told NBC Sports in May. “They’ve (World Champions) given me so much encouragement. I didn’t get that too much in the past.”

Chiles then credited Biles with bringing about a culture change.

“The fact that the gym is Black-owned makes it a beacon for Black elite gymnasts,” Moore said. “That’s not by happenstance. That’s a Simone thing. It’s going to become the blueprint.”

As great of an athlete as Biles is, some believe her spotlight may dim a little in the years ahead.

“There’s always somebody new that’s going to come and maybe make new achievements,” said Tori Ford, a women’s gymnastics coach at Discover Gymnastics in Houston. “She won’t be forgotten about all the way.”

It wouldn’t be the first time a well-known Olympic gymnast has faded. Dominique Dawes and Shannon Miller, who both won gold medals as part of the 1996 “Magnificent Seven” team, were once household names who aren’t in the public eye as much anymore.

“I don’t think it’s possible to forget Simone Biles,” Umberger said.

Neat reiterated that Biles’ impact will eventually surpass her accomplishments and steering the next generation of athletes.

“Her role isn’t going to be just coaching in the gym, but leading a cultural shift of protecting the wellness of athletes and coaches. Her biggest role coming out of the Olympic Games is helping to shift the culture. That’s her legacy. She is the person to do it. She is the individual that understands it better than anybody.”

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Pop mogul Simon Cowell was a racing flop with ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec – that didn’t win a penny

SIMON COWELL conquered the music world – but his foray into racing ended in disaster with an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse he owned with Ant and Dec.

The music mogul, 62, has done it all with bands like One Direction, Little Mix and solo acts Olly Murs and James Arthur, to name but a few.

Cowell owned an 'awful' £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec - but the runner didn't win a single penny in six races

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Cowell owned an ‘awful’ £35,000 horse with Ant and Dec – but the runner didn’t win a single penny in six racesCredit: PA:Press Association
Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

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Cowell remains a massive racing fan and loves Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby

His Syco label – plus shows such as Britain’s Got Talent – have dominated the entertainment industry and brought him an estimated net worth of £385m.

A lover of Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby, he looked perfectly poised to strike a knockout blow in the world of thoroughbreds.

But it turns out his runner was far from No1 in the charts – and never even finished better than fifth during a doomed six-race career.

Things looked promising at the start.

Named It’s A Yes From Me, the runner was trained with the respected James Fanshawe and sent off at 8-1 for his first race in June 2014.

But coming last of five by 13-and-a-half lengths was unfortunately about as good as it got for the gelding.

A month’s rest followed before he was sent off at 40-1 in a six-furlong sprint at Doncaster.

But there he could only manage fifth again, and it was same at Redcar the next month.

‘Dreadfully slow’

By October that year – with further finishes of sixth and tenth – It’s A Yes From Me came second-last in a one-mile race at Kempton.

One analysis of the race warned punters the horse was ‘one to tread carefully’ with.

Well, Cowell and Ant and Dec took that advice to heart as they never raced him again.

The horse was penniless from six races, never finishing high enough to recoup some of that £35,000 investment.

It’s doubtful Cowell, with hundreds of millions in the bank, lost any sleep over that.

But Ant and Dec revealed just how bad things has got with the horse during an interview last year.

Dec said of It’s A Yes From Me: “It was awful, it was a dreadfully slow horse.

“It wasn’t a racehorse it was just a horse, because it didn’t race.

“Every time we got to the BGT studio Simon would say, ‘I keep paying stable fees on this horse, but I’ve never seen it run’.”

Cowell originally wanted to name the nag after himself, but they settled on It’s A Yes From Me when they bought it in 2013.

‘It was awful’

Dec revealed its eventual fate: “I think it got rehomed.”

Of course it’s not all been bad for Cowell at the races.

He was one of the exclusive few at the Epsom Derby in June, having a great time with partner Lauren Silverman and Piers Morgan.

And two weeks later he was at Royal Ascot – where he first discovered his love of racing.

Cowell told SunSport’s Matt Chapman during a chat at Epsom: “I’ve got my son Eric with me today.

“My mum and dad years ago used to take me to Ascot and I was probably about his age – seven or eight.

Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this year

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Cowell with partner Lauren at Epsom earlier this yearCredit: Getty
It's A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races

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It’s A Yes From Me trails behind in last during one of his six races
The music supremo tweeted about his horse's bad start... which never got much better

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The music supremo tweeted about his horse’s bad start… which never got much better

Most read in Horse Racing

“So the fact I can now bring him to the races as well is brilliant. It brings back a lot of good memories.

“Making TV shows is my passion. But racing is actually my second passion.”

He hasn’t made that passion the money-maker his music label is, but don’t rule out Cowell staging his own comeback at the track in the near future.

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Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org

Commercial content notice: Taking one of the bookmaker offers featured in this article may result in a payment to The Sun. 18+. T&Cs apply. Begambleaware.org


Remember to gamble responsibly

A responsible gambler is someone who:

  • Establishes time and monetary limits before playing
  • Only gambles with money they can afford to lose
  • Never chases their losses
  • Doesn’t gamble if they’re upset, angry or depressed
  • Gamcare – www.gamcare.org.uk
  • Gamble Aware – www.begambleaware.org
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Minnesota wildfire doubles in size, creates its own weather

A wildfire in northeastern Minnesota more than doubled in size Tuesday, growing to more than 19,000 acres, after it produced pyrocumulous clouds that generated lightning and even raindrops, fire officials said.

The Greenwood Fire’s growth, most of which happened Monday afternoon, prompted firefighters to leave McDougal Lake, about 80 miles south-southwest of Duluth, officials said. Authorities fear that structures might have been destroyed or damaged.

“We had crews embedded, and as this fire took off, it was quite an effort to communicate with forces on the ground so they could get out,” said federal fire incident spokesman Clark McCreedy.

The pullout was a success, and no injuries were reported. However, downed trees and necessary cleanup mean crews have been unable to assess damage around the lake, McCreedy said.

In addition to the firefighter pullout, 159 dwellings were evacuated Monday, according to an update from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Cabins, homes and recreational sites remain under threat, the group said.

Patrick Prochaska, a Minneapolis resident who built a cabin near McDougal Lake in 2012, told NBC affiliate KARE that he watched via security camera as flames mostly bypassed his property Monday, causing minor damage.

“I was feeling very scared,” he said. “At the same time, I could see that it was not doing anything to the house, and it was kind of reassuring.”

The fire in and north of Superior National Forest has mostly performed according to the weather, fire officials said. On Monday, with dry fuel on the ground and temperatures in the high 80s, it was an expanding inferno punctuated by strobes of lightning.

“The winds were drawn into the fire from all directions,” the incident’s fire behavior analyst, Michael Locke, said in a video update Tuesday. “It created what we call pyrocumulous clouds. And really high in the atmosphere … you’d see a thunderstorm, and in fact they went high enough to produce a few sprinkles of rain and even some lightning.”

Temperatures dipped into the mid-70s Tuesday, and the blaze mellowed. “The real story was cloud cover and cooler temperatures,” McCreedy said.

More of the same, and possibly rain, was in the forecast, giving officials hope that they might be able to close the book on an unusually active and dry fire season in Minnesota.

Experts have said climate change has set the stage for extreme weather, including an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Northern Hemisphere.

Firefighters — 426 were assigned to the Greenwood event — have been confronted with “prolonged, severe drought,” making parts of Minnesota look like the fire-prone West this summer, McCreedy said.

The Greenwood Fire, which was detected Aug. 15, is believed to have been sparked by lightning.

So far, firefighters have scored no containment, and areas including McDougal Lake, Sand Lake and the Highway 2 corridor have been under mandatory evacuation orders. The federal Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was closed Saturday “due to active and increasing fire activity, extreme drought, limited resources,” the National Forest Service said in a notice.

Officials set a goal of Sept. 1 for full containment.

“We’re probably going to get more of that moderating weather for the rest of the week,” McCreedy said. “That opens the door for fire crews to make progress on the ground.”

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Hiker survives grizzly bear attack at Denali National Park

A tourist from Indiana was attacked and injured by a grizzly bear at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska on Monday night, park officials said.

The 55-year-old tourist, whose name was not released, was hiking alone in dense fog in the Thoroughfare Pass area when a mother bear and multiple cubs charged him from nearby bushes, the National Park Service said in a statement Tuesday.

He had puncture wounds to a calf, his left ribs and his left shoulder, the agency said.

The victim used bear spray that might have cut the attack short, the park service indicated. He walked 1.5 miles to a visitor’s center where “medical personnel” vacationing at Denali treated him as a park bus driver called 911, it said.

The hiker was taken to a medical center near the park before he was transferred to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, about 120 miles away, park officials said. He was stabilized at the Fairbanks hospital, they said.

“Due to the apparent defensive nature of this attack, there are no plans to locate the bear involved,” the park service said. “Female bears with cubs are naturally defensive of their young, especially when surprised. There is no indication that this bear is unusually dangerous.”

Grizzly bears are federally protected as a threatened species in the lower 48 states. According to the National Wildlife Federation, fewer than 1,500 grizzlies are left in the lower 48, but they thrive, comparatively, in Alaska, where they have a population of about 31,000.

The backcountry area of the attack is closed for one week as a precaution, the park service said.

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