Jordan Burroughs

Jordan Burroughs wins wrestling world title 4 weeks after breaking ankle

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All is normal again in wrestling. The sport remains in the Olympics, and Jordan Burroughs is still unbeatable.

Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic champion in the 74-kilogram freestyle, won his second straight world championship in the division in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday.

He prevailed 4-0 over Ezzatollah Akbarizarinkolaei, the third straight Iranian he’s faced in a world or Olympic final (match video here). It came four weeks after Burroughs required surgery after breaking an ankle in practice.

Doctors said it was a six-to-eight-week recovery process, and he didn’t get back onto a mat until 11 days ago, U.S. coach Mark Manning said.

“This has been the most difficult world championship for me,” Burroughs said, according to an international wrestling federation press release. “I had to fight hard for the gold medal. I’m happy to still be the champion.”

His winning streak is now at 65 matches. Burroughs’ last loss came in 2009, when he was at Nebraska. He tore two knee ligaments in the first period and was edged 3-2, ending a 44-match winning streak. He’s aware of the streak.

“Everyone tells me every day,” Burroughs said in a phone interview from Budapest after winning. “I haven’t been keeping count though. It’s something pretty cool, to tell other people. It doesn’t mean as much to me. It’s something cool to put on posters and flyers.”

Burroughs, 25, became the sixth U.S. men’s wrestler to win three combined Olympic or world titles, joining Bruce Baumgartner, Kevin JacksonLeroy KempMark Schultz and John Smith. They’re all freestylers.

Only Burroughs and Smith won back-to-back-to-back world or Olympic titles. Smith won all six Olympic and world titles from 1987 through 1992.

On Wednesday, Burroughs dominated in winning his first three matches by the seven-point-margin mercy rule.

Down 1-0, he came back to take his fourth, a semifinal. Burroughs was up 7-1 when his Belarusian opponent was disqualified for excessive cautions for “slapping Burroughs in the face,” according to USA Wrestling’s Twitter account.

Burroughs needed five screws and a plate in his left ankle after breaking it at the conclusion of an end-of-practice sprint drill Aug. 22. At the end of the sprint is a wall, and Burroughs tried to stop himself by putting his foot against the wall.

“Bam. Snap,” Burroughs said in a phone interview from Hungary on Wednesday. “I knew something was wrong.”

He took his shoe off, was helped out of the room and underwent surgery the next evening in Colorado Springs, Colo. He was then driven back to his hometown of Lincoln, Neb., overnight.

For days, Burroughs had thoughts that he might not be able to compete in Budapest.

“I didn’t have complete faith in myself,” said Burroughs, who was on crutches for a week and a half. “I realized that it may not be possible for me to compete at a high level.

“I thought it would be a game-time decision initially, and the further along in the process of recovery, the better I felt.”

He said the ankle held up “surprisingly well” over five matches Wednesday.

Burroughs is done wrestling for the year, but he will get married in Buffalo next month, followed by a honeymoon in Bora Bora. His plans on the mats next season won’t change. He wants to defend his world title in Uzbekistan.

The 2015 World Championships are in Las Vegas. By then, the rivalry between Burroughs and four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake could be at its peak. Burroughs beat Dake in the final at World Team Trials in June.

Burroughs previously said his plans were to wrestle through the 2016 Rio Olympics and then possibly switch to another sport. They’ve changed.

“I’ve kind of erased the MMA thoughts,” Burroughs told The Associated Press. “Reaching the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is a realistic goal. I still have a lot of wrestling left in me.”

Video: Wrestling wins IOC vote to remain in Olympics

Ashley Wagner, Nathan Chen make for contrasting favorites at U.S. Championships

Ashley Wagner, Nathan Chen
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Ashley Wagner and Nathan Chen trained on the same ice for the last three years. They enter this week’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City as favorites, but took different routes to arrive there.

Wagner, 25, seeks her fourth national title, following the worst Grand Prix result of her 10-year career.

Still, Wagner is the 2016 World Championships silver medalist, which carries the most weight of all with the PyeongChang Olympics coming in 13 months.

Wagner, the most accomplished U.S. women’s singles skater in a decade, can become the oldest U.S. women’s singles champion in 90 years.

“Mentally, I’m feeling very confident,” Wagner said last week. “At this point in my career it is very easy for me to get mentally worn out and worn down, but I usually feel strongest when my training is backing me up and when I know that I am physically fit.”

Chen, 17, is an even bigger favorite in the men’s field. The Salt Lake City native is already one of the most accomplished young skaters in U.S. history, taking two novice and two junior national titles.

In this his first senior international season, Chen had the best fall series of a U.S. man since Evan Lysacek won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Chen’s autumn culminated with a silver medal at December’s Grand Prix Final, beating the reigning Olympic and world champions in the free skate.

This week, Chen can become the youngest U.S. men’s singles champion in 51 years. He would do it one year after taking bronze and suffering a hip injury later that day that required season-ending surgery.

“I never thought that I would get there that fast,” Chen said.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships broadcast schedule

Chen was already working with Armenian coach Rafael Arutyunyan in Los Angeles when Wagner joined the training group in the middle of 2013.

Chen was barely 14 years old at the time, but Wagner, by then already a two-time U.S. champion, had learned about him back in 2010.

Wagner saw Chen win the U.S. Championships novice division at age 10, beating skaters six and seven years older than him, including her younger brother, Austin.

“And my brother retired after that year because of Nathan Chen,” Wagner said with a hint of humor.

Under Arutyunyan, a noted jumping technician, Wagner developed into the top consistent challenger to the dominant Russians.

She endured failure — finishing fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships and last-place programs at the Grand Prix Final. She experienced success — national and international feats not done by an American since Michelle Kwan.

Most of the U.S. skaters whom Wagner came up with have retired. Her closest recent domestic rivals — Olympic teammates Gracie Gold and Polina Edmunds — struggled with poor performances and injury, respectively, in the last year.

If Wagner prevails as she should in Kansas City, the next step is returning to the podium at the world championships in two months in Helsinki, where three Russians, three Japanese and a Canadian will try to keep her off of it. A second straight world medal would make Wagner the best U.S. hope for an Olympic women’s singles medal since 2006.

“The biggest thing about her is her mental toughness,” Chen said of Wagner, “especially when she goes to competitions and zones in on what she wants to do and comes out with the result she wants.”

MORE: Gracie Gold makes desperate move after rock bottom

Mental toughness is something Chen hopes to develop with experience. He already owns the physical tools, most notably an arsenal of quadruple jumps.

Chen, whose adorable 2010 U.S. Championships exhibition at age 10 aired on NBC, is now electrifying. He attempts six quads combined in two programs.

At his last event, the Grand Prix Final in December, Chen recorded the highest free skate score, bettering Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, who both were off their game. He finished second overall behind Hanyu, becoming the second-youngest men’s medalist in the event’s 22-year history.

NBC Olympics analyst Tara Lipinski, who took 1998 Olympic gold at age 15, has, like Wagner, known about Chen since 2010. Lipinski was in Spokane, Wash., for those U.S. Championships seven years ago.

“I remember thinking, oh boy, this kid is so talented, but not really thinking much of it because he was itty-bitty,” Lipinski said of Chen, who has grown a foot since 2010, to 5 feet, 5 inches. “Over time and with growth spurts, everything can change. But that’s why he’s so special. Every year, he improves. You talk about this quad revolution. He’s leading it.”

Chen responded to critics of his artistic skills this season by spending weeks away from Arutyunyan, which the coach supported.

“There is a brain of an adult in this kid’s head,” Arutyunyan said.

Chen went from Los Angeles to work in Michigan under Marina Zoueva, a Russian known for coaching the last two Olympic champion ice dance teams.

NBC Olympic analysts Johnny Weir and Lipinski saw an upgrade in Chen’s artistic components in his fall competitions. If he can challenge the top international skaters artistically, he can beat them with his jumping strength.

“The way that men’s figure skating is progressing, it’s about the quad game and how many you can do,” Wagner said. “It’s starting to look a little bit like ping-pong on the ice. … Going into the next couple of years, the ones that are going to stand out are the ones that do quads and are able to have a full, well-rounded program.”

In Sochi, the U.S. earned no singles figure skating medals for the first time since 1936.

The U.S. hasn’t earned men’s and women’s figure skating medals in the same Olympics since 2002, but it’s certainly looking possible with 13 months until PyeongChang.

“Of course, my goal would be to win the Olympics,” Chen said. “I feel like that’s everyone goal. It’s still a goal for me, but we’ll see how realistic it becomes over the next season.”

MORE: Jason Brown again slowed by injury going into U.S. Championships

Los Angeles 2024 Opening Ceremony plan includes multiple venues

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The Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid plans to use both the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and a to-be-built NFL stadium for its Opening Ceremony.

The ceremony would start with a portion of the torch relay at the Coliseum, with the flame making its way to the NFL stadium for the rest of the Opening Ceremony, including the cauldron lighting.

The Coliseum “will be filled with 70,000 spectators for a Hollywood-produced program of live entertainment, top musical performances and a live viewing and virtual-reality experience of all ceremony events at the L.A. [NFL] stadium at Hollywood Park,” according to an LA 2024 press release.

The Closing Ceremony will be similar, but in reverse, with the Coliseum hosting the formal portion and the NFL stadium opening for a live viewing experience.

The Coliseum hosted the ceremonies in 1932 and 1984, the previous two times Los Angeles hosted the Olympics.

Opening Ceremonies generally have one venue, though a cauldron has been lit outside the venue, such as at Vancouver 2010 and Rio 2016.

Los Angeles is bidding against Budapest and Paris for the 2024 Olympics.

International Olympic Committee members will vote to choose the 2024 host city on Sept. 13.

MORE: 2024 Olympic bidding news