John Orozco

John Orozco added to U.S. gymnastics team for World Championships

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John Orozco was named as the replacement for Danell Leyva on the U.S. gymnastics team going to the World Championships next month, USA Gymnastics announced.

Orozco, the 2012 U.S. all-around champion, was one of three alternates considered for the opening on the six-man team after Leyva withdrew Monday, citing a lingering shoulder injury.

“I am honored to be representing USA at World Championships this year and I wish Danell Johan Leyva a speedy recovery,” was posted on Orozco’s social media accounts.

Orozco finished fourth in the all-around at last weekend’s National Championships in Hartford, Conn., in his first full, six-event competition since tearing an ACL and a meniscus in his left knee in October.

USA Gymnastics picked six men after nationals for the World Championships team. Orozco was the highest-ranked all-around finisher of the men who were not picked. Leyva, the 2012 Olympic all-around bronze medalist, was seventh in the all-around at nationals.

Orozco, 20, joins a U.S. team led by fellow Olympian Sam Mikulak, who ran away with the all-around title in Hartford. Also on the team is Olympian Jake Dalton and previous World Championships team members Alex Naddour, Brandon Wynn and Steven Legendre.

There is no team event at the World Championships, which begin Sept. 30. Orozco is a candidate for medals on high bar and parallel bars. It remains to be seen if Orozco will be one of two U.S. competitors in the all-around. It would be a surprise if Mikulak is not one of the two. Orozco placed fifth in the all-around at the 2011 World Championships and eighth at the 2012 Olympics.

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U.S. a world power in ice dance going into Grand Prix Final

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 31:  Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States celebrate after completing their Free Dance Program during Day 4 of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2016 at TD Garden on March 31, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Even without the defending Olympic champions, the proof is right there on the ice: The U.S. has become the world power in ice dance.

For the second straight year, three American couples have made the Grand Prix Final, which starts Friday in Marseille, France. U.S. champions and world silver medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani; 2015 U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and three-time U.S. bronze medalists Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue make up half the field — for a second consecutive season.

That sure impresses Charlie White, who with Meryl Davis became the first Americans to win ice dance gold at the Olympics, in 2014.

“I’m not sure there’s a better way to show the dominance of U.S. ice dancing better than having three teams making the Grand Prix Final two years in a row,” he said. “It’s been amazing to see these three teams proving themselves time and time again at these stacked Grand Prix events.

“The experience gained, and consistency shown by this group of U.S. dance teams will certainly help their chances at giving their best showing at an event like the Olympics.”

Chock and Bates and the Shibutanis already have been down that road, finishing eighth and ninth in Sochi. Since then, their performances have been on a steady upward course, with the brother and sister Shibutanis winning nationals this year and finishing second at worlds. Chock and Bates took the U.S. title in 2015 and finished just behind the Shibutanis at this year’s worlds.

All of today’s couples owe credit to their — uh, foreskaters? — for taking ice dancing from the outcast stepchild in American figure skating to the top of the world. And they know it.

“I think it is sort of a product of the growth of the sport in our country spearheaded by Meryl and Charlie, and before them, Tanith (Belbin) and Ben (Agosto), Peter (Tchernyshev) and Naomi (Lang), and back to Liz (Punsalan) and Jerod (Swallow),” said Bates, who teamed with Chock in 2011. “We have been working on this for a long time, the last few decades, really. Now, in the world of ice dancing we are recognized as the top country.”

Added the Shibutanis: “Earlier in our career, we trained with both Meryl and Charlie, and Tanith and Ben. Their accomplishments have been inspiring and have done a lot to improve the visibility of ice dance in the U.S. They are our friends and they have always been very supportive and encouraging. We are working to continue to build on what they started.”

For decades, Russians dominated ice dance, in part because of the coaching available in the Soviet Union and then in Russia. Other than the brilliant Britons Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean and their mesmerizing performances in the 1980s, it was rare for anyone else to make frequent visits to the medals podium.

Today, it is rare when an American couple does not win a gold, silver or bronze.

“I think that the U.S. has a particularly great developmental program that has created an abundance of talented athletes representing Team USA on the international circuit,” Hubbell said. “For ice dance in particular, U.S. Figure Skating has made huge strides in becoming one of the most competitive federations. I have had the support of U.S. Figure Skating for over 10 years now, and I grew up training and competing with Chock and Bates, and the Shibutanis. I believe it is the supportive, competitive environment that we have grown up with that has pushed us to have three teams in the Grand Prix Final for the second season consecutively.”

Also pushing are the coaches, some of which were trained in the Russian systems. Igor Shpilband, then Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov, worked with Belbin and Agosto. Marina Zoueva guided Davis’ and White’s careers.

Shpilband works with Chock and Bates, and the Shibutanis work with Zoueva.

“No. 1, you have to credit the coaching,” said White, who also won Olympic silver in 2010 and took six straight U.S. championships with Davis. “Skaters can work themselves into the ground all day every day, but unless they have the choreography and expertise of top-level coaches, that work will not pay off.”

But there’s more to it than that, Davis insisted.

When the three U.S. duos compete in the Grand Prix Final against 2010 Olympic champions and 2014 runners-up Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada — the other surpassing ice dance couple of the last decade — plus France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, the two-time reigning world champs, the Americans will bring something else to the rink.

“No. 2 is the incredible hard work and dedication to the sport by the U.S. ice dance teams,” White says. “Coming from the history that we have in the sport internationally, I think U.S. ice dancers always feel they have something to prove. And right now they are proving themselves time and time again.”

MORE: Meryl Davis provides update on possible return

U.S. bobsled, skeleton athletes ready to skip world championships

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15:  Kyle Tress of the United States makes a run during the Men's Skeleton on Day 8 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Sliding Center Sanki on February 15, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Olympians voted to recommend boycotting February’s world championships in Sochi if the event is not relocated out of the doping-tainted nation, according to The New York Times.

U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton’s athlete advisory committee voted unanimously in recent days, according to the report. Listed members of the committee include Olympic skeleton sliders Matthew Antoine and Kyle Tress.

“There’s tremendous support to skip this event, and I think it’s the right decision,” Tress said, according to the report.

At least 15 Russian medalists from the Sochi Olympics, including bobsledders and skeleton sliders, were on a state-run doping program leading into those Winter Games, according to the newspaper’s report in May. Russian doping samples were also tampered with at the Sochi Olympics, according to the report.

Those are primary reasons why bobsled and skeleton athletes in the U.S. and Europe have voiced concern about competing in Sochi in February.

Olympic champions Lizzy Yarnold (skeleton) and Steven Holcomb (bobsled) said earlier this fall that they may skip worlds, and men’s skeleton stars Martins and Tomass Dukurs might, too, according to Latvian media.

“We discussed this as a team, we’re up in the air,” Holcomb said last month. “We don’t know what we’re going to do yet. Safety is a concern. What are the chances I go there, and all of a sudden Russian anti-doping tests me, and I [falsely] test positive? That wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Being outspoken, yeah I’m a little nervous about going there.”

On July 19, following rampant Russian anti-doping issues, the IOC asked all winter sports federations to “freeze their preparations for major events in Russia, such as world championships … and to actively look for alternative organizers.”

The IOC later clarified that statement, telling federations it did not apply to events whose host cities were already chosen, according to Inside the Games. The 2017 World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships were awarded to Sochi in June 2013.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) said it will not comment until after the second part of McLaren report into Russian doping is published Friday.

The World Cup bobsled and skeleton season started last weekend in Whistler, B.C. Both Russians who won 2014 Olympic skeleton medals competed in Whistler, seven months after the New York Times reported their names were on the Sochi doping list.

Alexander Tretiakov, a 2014 Olympic champion, finished second in Whistler, one spot ahead of Antoine. Elena Nikitina, a 2014 Olympic bronze medalist, finished 17th out of 25 racers in Whistler.

Nikitina won bronze in Sochi by .04 over American Katie Uhlaender. Uhlaender did not race in Whistler but is on the U.S. team for World Cups this season.

“Sochi is in Russia, and it’s the place where the cheating happened,” Uhlaender said, according to The New York Times. “I’m confused at how the IOC said what it said, and we’re still holding our world championships there.”

MORE: Bobsled, luge, skeleton broadcast schedule

*Correction: Olympic medalist bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor is listed on U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton’s athlete advisory council webpage, but she said Monday she resigned her position on the athletes advisory council in July.