John Orozco

Gymnast John Orozco set to return from major knee injury

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Reigning U.S. all-around gymnastics champion John Orozco will compete for the first time since the London Olympics this weekend.

Orozco and Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva lead the field at a national qualifier in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Saturday and Sunday.

Their eyes are on the U.S. championships Aug. 15-18 in Hartford, Conn. At least 14 gymnasts from more than 70 will clinch berths for nationals based on a points ranking system.

The already qualified Orozco, 20, suffered a torn left ACL and associated meniscus damage on a parallel bars dismount during a post-Olympic USA Gymnastics tour in October. It’s the second major rehab for Orozco, who tore an Achilles in 2010.

Orozco will only compete in four events this weekend — high bar, parallel bars, pommel horse and still rings. He expects to be cleared to do full floor exercise and vault training in anticipation of doing all six events at nationals.

“It’s a competition to get back in shape and see where I’m at in competition, to get back into it instead of nationals being my first competition back,” Orozco said by telephone from Colorado Springs.

Orozco said his rehab and recovery from Nov. 9 surgery have gone to plan. He returned to gymnastics apparatus in February and started doing full skills about a month later.

The Bronx native learned from the previous Achilles injury not to dwell on the fact he would be out a prolonged period. He said, this time, the biggest disappointment was merely not being able to finish the tour with his teammates.

“I didn’t think it was that bad when I first hurt myself because I was able to walk away from it,” Orozco said of the October injury. “A few hours later … I knew that I was going to be out quite a while. I was thinking about how I could make (the rehab) go by faster, mentally preparing to get myself out of this depression you hit when you get injured and are out for a while.”

Orozco said he never thought about taking all of 2013 off, like so many Olympians have done who weren’t injured. He’s eager to compete yet has set modest goals. Rather than racking up more medals, he’s focused on making the national team and reaching the world championships in Antwerp, Belgium, in September and October.

“I’m not trying to give myself too many expectations,” he said. “I’m not going to be too hard on myself if my plans don’t work out.”

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Pyeongchang Olympic organizers optimistic with 500 days to go

Security personnel stands by a logo of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games before an event to mark the start of the 500-day countdown in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016. With 500 days until the Olympic cauldron is ignited in Pyeongchang, organizers of the 2018 Winter Games say 90 percent of construction on new venues is complete and the focus of preparations is on test events. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Marking the 500-day countdown to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, organizers said Tuesday that 90 percent of construction of new venues is complete and the focus is now on preparing for test events.

Pyeongchang’s organizing committee said construction is on schedule for a series of sports competitions scheduled from November to April that will serve as rehearsals for the Olympics, which begin Feb. 9, 2018.

The six new competition venues for the games are now 88 percent complete and a new high-speed rail line – designed to link the country’s main gateway of Incheon airport with Pyeongchang in less than two hours – will be completed next June and start operations in January 2018, organizers said.

The preparations are undergoing a transition from the “planning phase to operational readiness,” the organizing committee said in a statement.

“Asia has immeasurable potential to become the frontier of winter sports. Pyeongchang has been dedicated to promote winter sports and attract investments throughout Asia,” the committee said.

Noting that the 2018 Games will be the first of three consecutive Olympics in Asia, the committee said Pyeongchang will be an “opportunity to establish even closer links among the next host countries and build bridges through sports.”

Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics, while Beijing will stage the 2022 Winter Games.

Pyeongchang organizers have overcome delays, local conflicts over venue constructions and difficulties attracting domestic sponsorships in past years. Optimism over preparations has increased after the successful hosting of the first round of test events at Alpine venues earlier this year.

Despite a slow start, organizers say more than 80 percent of the domestic sponsorship target of $850 million has been met and that they expect to reach 90 percent of the target by the end of the year.

A program of cultural events featuring pop singers and local sports stars was held in Seoul on Tuesday evening to mark the start of the countdown.

MORE: 500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

500 Days to Pyeongchang: Five athletes to watch

PARK CITY, UT - FEBRUARY 06:  Chloe Kim celebrates a first place finish in the ladies' FIS Snowboard World Cup at the 2016 U.S Snowboarding Park City Grand Prix on February 6, 2016 in Park City, Utah.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Today marks 500 days until the Opening Ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics.

Below are five U.S. athletes to get to know before February 9, 2018:

Ryan Bailey (Bobsled): Bailey, who finished fifth as a sprinter in the London Olympic 100m, is attempting to compete at the 2018 Olympics as a bobsledder. On Sept. 21, just weeks into his bobsled career, he won the men’s push athlete national title. The last male Summer Olympian to make a U.S. Olympic bobsled team was Willie Davenport in 1980.

MORE: Converted sprinter Ryan Bailey wins bobsled national title

Brittany Bowe and Heather Richardson (Speed Skating): Bowe and Richardson have been trading world records in recent years. Last November, Bowe broke her own women’s 1000m world record, only to have Richardson lower it just three minutes later. A week later, Bowe broke the world record in the event once again.

MORE: Dan Jansen explains recent flurry of world records

Meryl Davis and Charlie White (Figure Skating): The future is uncertain for Davis and White, who became the first U.S. couple to win an Olympic ice dance title in Sochi. They have not competed since the 2014 Olympics, but they have also not announced their retirement.

MORE: Where Meryl Davis, Charlie White stand on possible comeback

Chloe Kim (Snowboarding): Kim mathematically qualified for the 2014 U.S. Olympic team in halfpipe, but at 13, she was not old enough to be eligible to compete in Sochi. A U.S. woman has won gold in the event at three of the past four Olympics, but Kaitlyn Farrington, who won halfpipe gold in Sochi, retired after being diagnosed with a spinal condition.

MORE: Kaitlyn Farrington retires from snowboarding

Mikaela Shiffrin (Alpine Skiing): Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion at the 2014 Games, when she was 18. Four years later, she is hoping to become the first Alpine skier — man or woman — to repeat as slalom gold medalist. She also could become the first U.S. women’s Alpine skier to win gold medals in multiple Olympics.