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Chaos on the champions’ tour

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You may have heard a little something about all the gymnasts dropping like flies during the Kelloggs Tour of Champions recently. You’re also probably wondering “Why are they still touring?”

Well, here’s the low down:

The Post Olympic tour is a long-standing tradition and an important marketing tool for USA Gymnastics. After each Olympics the stars of the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams go from city-to-city all over the U.S. meeting fans, signing autographs, and putting on flashy choreographed dance performances mixed with gymnastics. Fun.

The tour has also often been a way for athletes who have gone pro to make a little money from their efforts in a sport that doesn’t offer the typical million dollar pay day of other mainstream sports. Most of these athletes have trained eight hours a day, six days a week, leading up the Games, so the tour is also a much needed mental break from the grind of Olympic preparation.

The Kelloggs Tour of Champions is a high-flying spectacle, but it also seems to be fielding an unfortunate trend of injuries. On the second of forty stops McKayla Maroney further injured her leg performing a simple fly away dismount on uneven bars, and had to undergo surgery. That same night Aly Raisman had a scary fall from the bars and sustained minor injuries to her knees and back. Then, just this week, John Orozco tore his ACL and meniscus, an injury that could end the national champ’s season before it even begins.

This is gymnastics and accidents happen, but what is going on with this tour!?

A few explanations:

Athletes are performing less difficult routines than they did in London, but instead of competing on a podium that adds extra bounce and cushion, the gymnasts are performing on thin mats placed over concrete, a surface they’re not used to landing on. Their personal coaches are back at home preparing future Olympians so tour members are without their normal safety net. Many athletes came into the tour a bit worn down, and beat up from the wear and tear of the Olympic games and thus injuries are more likely.

There’s certain to be at least two tour survivors: Danell Leyva chose to forgo the tour entirely to resume training and will head out on an international assignment in December. Kyla Ross performed only her home state is back training for 2016. Phew. Stay safe out there, everyone.

U.S. sprinters past, present trade relay barbs

Justin Gatlin
Getty Images
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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The only loss for the Americans at the Penn Relays came in the men’s 4x100m, as the U.S. team bobbled its victory away on a bad baton handoff between Tyson Gay and Isiah Young for the final leg, which led to a disqualification.

Mike Rodgers and Justin Gatlin gave the Americans an early lead in the race, and things were moving along well during Gay’s third leg. But the muffed handoff for the final leg cost the Americans. Both the winning Jamaican squad and the second American team surpassed them.

Young finished third, but the team was disqualified because the handoff occurred outside the pass zone. The second U.S. team of Sean McLean, Wallace Spearman, Calesio Newman and Remontay McLain finished in 39.02.

The mistake led to some inflammatory comments from U.S. great Leroy Burrell about continued problems with handoffs by U.S. relay teams.

“Well, I think we’ve got to put our team together a little earlier, possibly,” Burrell said in a television interview. “I think, we’ve had the same coaches working with these guys for many years, and we’ve had failure after failure. So it’s possible that, you know, it might be time for a bit of a regime change with the leadership.

“I think the athletes have to be the catalysts that make that happen. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to get the stick around. I saw thousands of relay teams yesterday — maybe not thousands, but hundreds of relay teams get it around. But the professionals can’t. That’s just not good for our sport.”

Rodgers didn’t take kindly to those remarks.

“People keep pointing their fingers and downing us, but nobody has ever tried to come out there and help us,” he said. “Nobody from the past. Not Carl [Lewis] or Leroy. They haven’t been out there. I can’t really respect their opinions because they’re supposed to be leaders in our sport and in the USA, and they’re not coming out there to drop some knowledge on us, so I don’t care what they have to say.”

Lewis criticized U.S. relays in March.

Gatlin was equally critical of Burrell.

“I’m tired of people who have been part of Team USA take shots at Team USA,” Gatlin said. “To put us in the same boat as high schoolers is insulting.”

Bob Costas’ report 100 days out from Rio (video)

Bob Costas
NBC News
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Bob Costas reported from Rio de Janeiro for NBC News on Wednesday, 100 days out from the Opening Ceremony.

In the clip below, Michael PhelpsSimone Biles and even Brazil soccer legend Pelé comment on preparing for the first Games in South America.

Costas finished the clip with a stand-up from Copacabana Beach, where beach volleyball will take place in August.

VIDEO: Bob Costas picks biggest storyline of Rio Olympics