Reigning world champ Hurd best of the rest at US gymnastics

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              Morgan Hurd competes on the floor exercise at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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BOSTON (AP) — Reigning world champion Morgan Hurd manages to be impressed by Simone Biles without being intimidated by the gap between the Olympic gold medalist and the rest of the women at the U.S. gymnastics championships.

Posting perhaps her best day in competition — with a score that was better than her winning performance at worlds in Montreal last year — Hurd finished the first rotation on Friday night in second place, a healthy 3.100 behind Biles but comfortably ahead of the rest of the pack.

With Biles returning after a two-year hiatus, the other American women know that second is probably the best they can do.

“I’m just happy with how solid I was today,” Hurd said. “I went out there and I did the absolute best I can do.”

Unlike Biles, who stepped out of bounds twice on the floor exercise and incurred a 0.6 point deduction (but still had the highest score in the world since the Rio Olympics), Hurd turned out a penalty-free performance to finish the first day with 57.000 points. Riley McCusker was third with 56.050.

“This is the first time I haven’t fallen on my Day 1,” Hurd said.

Asked why, she conceded it had probably been nerves.

Since winning worlds, that’s melted away.

“I think it just helps because I have a lot more experience now,” she said.

Arriving as the reigning world champion is an added pressure, Hurd said, but the real pressure is internal. “I have high standards for myself, higher than I did last year,” she said.

But, with Biles back in the field, Hurd knows that doing her best is going to have to be good enough.

“She’s the greatest of all time. Such a legend. She’s very hard to catch,” Hurd said.” It’s amazing. It’s such an honor to be able to compete with the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). You can’t not watch her. Your eyes are automatically drawn to her.”