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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Mikaela Shiffrin wins final slalom for best career season (video)

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Mikaela Shiffrin won her 12th World Cup race this season and seventh slalom, both personal bests, at the World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden, on Saturday.

Shiffrin, who clinched her second World Cup overall title and fifth slalom season title before the last races of the campaign this weekend, prevailed by 1.58 seconds over Swiss Wendy Holdener. PyeongChang gold medalist Frida Hansdotter of Sweden was third.

“The slalom has always been really close to my heart,” said Shiffrin, who won the last two slaloms this season after a shocking fourth-place finish in PyeongChang. “To finish with a run like that was super special.”

Full results are here.

Shiffrin matched Lindsey Vonn‘s American record for World Cup wins in one season — 12 — with one more race Sunday. Only Swiss Vreni Schneider has more women’s World Cup wins in a single campaign with 14.

Shiffrin, who turned 23 on Tuesday, also moved into solo fifth place on the women’s World Cup wins list with 43, including 23 victories in the last two seasons.

If Shiffrin keeps it up, she can move into the top three next season, though Lindsey Vonn‘s record 82 is a ways off.

“I’m not thinking about that so much,” Shiffrin said. “It’s way too soon to set that as my goal.”

Shiffrin is also three World Cup slalom wins shy of the record 35 held by retired Austrian Marlies Schild, whom Shiffrin supplanted as the world’s top slalom skier in 2013.

The World Cup Finals conclude Sunday with the women’s giant slalom. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA will air live coverage of the second run at 7:30 a.m. ET.

“After today I’m really looking forward to going to the start one more time this season and hammering down,” Shiffrin said.

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Katie Ledecky beaten in NCAA Championships individual medley

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Katie Ledecky lost an NCAA Championships race for the first time in eight career finals, taking second in the 400-yard individual medley on Friday.

Stanford teammate Ella Eastin easily beat Ledecky by 3.69 seconds and grabbed the American and NCAA records from Ledecky, too. Eastin’s 3:54.60 is 1.93 seconds faster than Ledecky’s time from the Pac-12 Championships last month.

How did she do it?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Eastin said on ESPNU. “I’ve built a lot of endurance this year, and it really showed.”

Eastin is decorated in her own right. She three-peated as NCAA 400-yard IM champion and held the American record in the event before Ledecky lowered it last month.

Eastin would have made the 2017 World Championships team had she not been disqualified for an illegal turn after finishing in second place at nationals.

Ledecky, a sophomore, has never contested the 400m IM at a U.S. Championships, Olympics or world championships, nor did she race the 400-yard IM at 2017 NCAAs. She raced the 400 IM instead of the 200 freestyle on Friday.

All of Ledecky’s races at major meets before Friday were in freestyle events. Her only defeat in a major international meet individual final was the 200m freestyle at 2017 Worlds.

Ledecky won five NCAA titles last year and the last two nights anchored the 800-yard freestyle relay and captured the 500-yard freestyle by eight seconds.

Meet results are here.

Later Friday, Lilly King of Indiana three-peated in the 100-yard breaststroke, breaking her American and NCAA records and winning in 56.25 seconds. King is also the Olympic and world champion in the 100m breast, plus the world-record holder.

“Always excited to get the record, but was really hoping to break 56 today,” King said.

Louisville’s Mallory Comerford became the second woman after Missy Franklin to break 1:40 in the 200-yard freestyle, winning in 1:39.80. Co-Olympic 100m free champ Simone Manuel of Stanford was third. Comerford and Ledecky tied for the 2017 NCAA 200 free title.

Stanford’s Ally Howe won the 100-yard backstroke in 49.70, one hundredth shy of her NCAA and American records. Olympic 100m backstroke silver medalist Kathleen Baker of Cal-Berkeley was third.

NCAAs conclude Saturday. Ledecky swims the 1,650-yard freestyle. She is the overwhelming favorite, having gone 35 seconds faster than anyone this season.

Ledecky hasn’t discussed with Stanford whether she will return for her junior season or turn pro, according to the school.

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