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.

Mark McMorris hospitalized after snowboarding accident

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Olympic bronze medalist Mark McMorris suffered several injuries including a fractured jaw, fractured left arm, ruptured spleen, stable pelvic fracture, rib fractures and a collapsed left lung during a backcountry snowboarding trip Saturday, according to Canada Snowboard.

McMorris underwent surgery to control bleeding from the spleen on Saturday. He underwent another surgery to repair the jaw and arm fractures Sunday and was resting in Vancouver General Hospital on Monday morning.

“While both the mandible and humerus fractures were complicated injuries, the surgeries went very well, and both fractures are now stabilized to heal in excellent position,” Canada Snowboard team physician Dr. Rodney J. French said, according to the press release. “It is too early to speculate on a timeline for Mark’s recovery.”

McMorris, 23, won bronze in the first Olympic snowboard slopestyle event in Sochi, competing 12 days after breaking a rib.

McMorris has been considered a threat for two gold medals in PyeongChang, with the addition of big air. He earned Winter X Games medals in both slopestyle and big air in 2015, 2016 and 2017, including double gold in 2015.

He has already come back in this Olympic cycle from breaking his right femur in an Air and Style big air run in Los Angeles on Feb. 21, 2016 (video here). His rehab has been extensively documented by Canadian media.

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MORE: McMorris, after horrible injury, ups risk for 2 golds in PyeongChang

Several women’s players spurn worlds inquiry from USA Hockey

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As sports organizations and notable hockey figures express support of the U.S. women’s team, several players say they rejected overtures from USA Hockey to serve as replacements for the upcoming world championships.

Two players told The Associated Press on Friday that USA Hockey reached out to them to gauge their interest for the worlds, which begin next week in Plymouth, Michigan.

Brittany Ott, a goaltender for the Boston Pride of the National Women’s Hockey League, and Annie Pankowski, a junior forward at the University of Wisconsin, said the email from USA Hockey was not an invitation but rather an inquiry about their availability.

“I responded to that email and I said I’m not willing,” Pankowski said.

A third player, goalie Lauren Dahm, told the AP on Saturday she also turned down an invitation. Dahm plays for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League Boston Blades.

The U.S. team has said it plans to boycott the worlds over a wage dispute with USA Hockey, which confirmed Thursday it would begin reaching out to potential replacement players. Several players posted messages on social media saying they support the national team and would decline or have declined any outreach from USA Hockey.

“From a personal standpoint I have never been invited to a USA Hockey series or camp or anything like that and I would honestly love to be invited to something like that,” Ott said by phone. “However at the current time, this is a fight that I believe in and I’m definitely going to stand up and help fight as much as I can.”

Many players posted a version of a Jerry Rice quote on Twitter on Friday: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can do what others can’t. I said no to USAH & will not play in the 2017WC.” Not all players who tweeted that message were asked by USA Hockey if they could play.

On Saturday, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the chorus of support for the players, saying on Twitter the organization stands behind their pursuit of fairness and equality.

“These women understand inequality when they see it and are expressing their right to be treated fairly as athletes and workers,” Smith tweeted. “Of course, they have the NFLPA’s support in daring to withhold their services until a fair agreement is reached.”

Philadelphia Flyers coach Dave Hakstol posted his support on Twitter, calling players competitors and role models.

On Friday, the NHL Players’ Association and Major League Baseball players posted messages of support. The NHLPA posted on Twitter that it supports players and panned USA Hockey’s bid to stock the team with replacements, adding that the decision “would only serve to make relations, now and in the future, much worse.”

The MLBPA encouraged all female hockey players to stand united behind their national team colleagues.

Players are seeking a four-year contract that includes payments outside the six-month Olympic period. The sides met for 10-plus hours Monday, but players have called USA Hockey’s counterproposal “disappointing.”

USA Hockey said Thursday its priority was to have all the players selected for the national team on the ice March 31 when the tournament begins. But the organization added that it informed players’ representatives it would begin reaching out to potential replacements with the tournament coming up.

Star national team forward Hilary Knight said last week she wished USA Hockey luck putting together a suitable team of replacements to defend the gold medal because the player pool was united in the dispute. Ott and Pankowski said they had not heard from any players expressing a willingness to play in worlds.

“It’s a very unified front,” Ott said. “It’s a tight-knit community that we have in women’s hockey here. This is definitely a big opportunity for us to make a big change and have a big impact on our sport and have it grow. We’re all standing together.”

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