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Another wrestler returns his gold to IOC

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Russia’s Sagid Murtazalie, following the lead of Bulgarian champion Valentin Yordanov, has also returned his gold medal to the IOC Tuesday, in protest of the organization’s recommendation to remove the sport from the 2020 Olympics.

“The decision to return my Olympic medal was not easy for me,” Murtazaliev, the Sydney 2000 heavyweight champ, said in a letter to IOC president Jacques Rogge.

It leaves us to wonder whether passionate American champions like Rulon Gardner or Kurt Angle will be joining their wrestling brethren in returning their medals. But USA Wrestling spokesman Gary Abbott told USA Today that it’s not likely to happen:

“Each wrestling nation and each individual athlete will do what they can to keep the issue in front of the world,” Abbott said. “I don’t think there’s been a call within the wrestling community to do this. I think these are individual statements being made by individual athletes wanting to make a difference in the discussion. We haven’t heard that from any of our athletes.”

But USA Wrestling is being proactive by creating the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling, and by putting aside diplomatic issues with countries like Iran and Russia in order for wrestlers from those nations to join each other in the common goal of returning wrestling to its Olympic status.

Wrestling’s first challenge will be a vote in St. Petersburg in May, which will determine which of the eight prospective sports, including squash, karate, wakeboarding, sport climbing, roller sports, wushu, and baseball/softball, will move on to the final IOC vote in September. That vote will determine which sport will fill the one open spot in the 2020 Olympics schedule.

Simone Biles welcomed home with cheerleaders, band, police escort (video)

Simone Biles
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The celebration began the moment Simone Biles walked into Bush Airport in Houston on Wednesday.

Biles, after winning four gold medals at the Rio Olympics, arrived in her home state of Texas to the sounds of a band, sights of Houston Texans cheerleaders and much more.

Mayor Sylvester Turner declared Wednesday to be “Simone Biles Day” in Houston, handing the gymnast a paper proclamation.

“Hi guys, I’m Simone Biles, and I can’t thank everyone [enough] in all of Houston for coming out to see me today and to welcome me from Rio,” she said, laughing, on a podium at the airport. “I don’t know what else to say, I’m nervous, and I love you guys.”

Later, Biles was given a parade in her hometown of Spring, a Houston suburb, with a police escort.

Biles and the Final Five’s first stop on the way home from Rio was New York, where they went on a media tour earlier this week. They reached the top of the Empire State Building, visited Jimmy Fallon and saw “Hamilton.”

The Final Five will reunite for a USA Gymnastics tour of 36 cities, beginning Sept. 15.

MORE: Home videos of Simone Biles doing gymnastics

Gwen Jorgensen the latest Olympic triathlon star to move up to marathon

Gwen Jorgensen
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When Olympic triathlon champion Gwen Jorgensen lines up for her first 26.2-mile race at the New York City Marathon on Nov. 6, it will be hard to judge her performance.

Perhaps the best measure will be her time versus those of previous Olympic triathlon medalists in their marathon debuts.

Jorgensen is recognized as the greatest female runner among top-level female triathletes, perhaps of all time, with an ability to make up deficits of more than one minute on the 10km run after swimming 1,500 meters and biking 40 kilometers.

Swiss Nicola Spirig, the 2012 Olympic triathlon gold medalist, made her marathon debut in 2014 in 2:42:53. Sprig, though, had more long-distance racing experience than Jorgensen, including a half marathon.

Jorgensen, 30 and a former University of Wisconsin distance runner and swimmer, has never tackled more than 10 miles in training, according to The New York Times.

“When you ask athletes what they want to do after they win gold or the Super Bowl, they say they want to go to the happiest place on earth,” Jorgensen said, according to the newspaper. “Running is my happiest place. It’s my Disneyland.”

Portugal’s Vanessa Fernandes shared triathlon’s longest top-level international winning streak before Jorgensen strung together 13 wins in a row.

Fernandes, the 2008 Olympic triathlon silver medalist, clocked 2:31:25 in her first marathon, but it came in 2015, four years after her last elite international triathlon.

The 2015 New York City Marathon women’s winning time was 2:24:25 by Kenyan Mary Keitany. The top American, Laura Thweatt, ran 2:28:23.

This year’s American field may be stronger, with Olympic track distance runners Molly Huddle and Kim Conley making their marathon debuts.

Other Olympic triathlon medalists, including 2004 gold medalist Kate Allen and 2000 silver medalist Michellie Jones, have moved up to the Ironman — a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon.

In 2014, Jorgensen said she didn’t see herself ever doing an Ironman.

MORE: What Jorgensen asked Ironman star Mirinda Carfrae