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

Kerri Walsh Jennings’ next partner is a familiar one

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Kerri Walsh Jennings is slated to play with with 2008 Olympian Nicole Branagh this summer, after she and Olympic bronze medal teammate April Ross split last month.

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion with Misty May-Treanor before that bronze in Rio, and Branagh, who made the Beijing Games quarterfinals with Elaine Youngs, are entered in an FIVB World Tour event in Croatia the last week of June.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are both 38 years old and briefly paired in 2010 when May-Treanor was uncertain about making a run for the London Olympics. When May-Treanor told Walsh Jennings she was all-in for London, Walsh Jennings split from Branagh.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are hoping to play together through the World Tour Finals in late August, according to Volleyball Magazine.

That includes the world championships in Vienna, Austria, in late July and early August.

It’s not known if they will have the combined ranking points to earn an outright worlds spot. They could also receive a wild card for worlds. Entries will be announced next month.

Walsh Jennings, a mother of three, has said she hopes to play in the 2020 Olympics at age 41, when she will be older than any previous Olympic beach or indoor volleyball player, according to Olympic historians.

Branagh returned to competition this year after a one-year break to have her second child. She has played few international events since 2012 and last won internationally in 2010 (with Walsh Jennings).

Ross, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist and 2009 World champion, is now partnered with Lauren Fendrick, who played with Brooke Sweat in Rio. Ross, 34, said she will figure out her long-term partner plans for Tokyo 2020 after this season.

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Catching up with Ross Powers

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Ross Powers, now 38 years old and 15 years removed from his Olympic snowboarding title, is still out with halfpipe riders on the snow five days per week.

The difference now is that Powers is coaching. He runs the snowboarding program at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, where he graduated from in 1997.

Powers spoke with OlympicTalk before last season, reflecting on 20 years of snowboarding in the Olympics, Shaun White and how he likes coaching.

OlympicTalk: The PyeongChang Winter Games will mark 20 years since snowboarding’s debut in Nagano. What was it like competing in the first Olympic halfpipe?

Powers (who won bronze in Nagano at age 19): It seemed kind of like a regular World Cup. We were up in the mountains. At the time, it was a really good halfpipe, but we ended up competing in some bad weather, some rain. I didn’t realize until I left Japan and got home how big the Olympics were. But looking back, it was a special time. And I really learned from the ’98 Olympics, like if I get this chance again, I’m going to go there, I’m going to do it all. I’m going to go to Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremonies, watch as many events as I can and just make the most out of the Games.

OlympicTalk: The Nagano halfpipe was about half the size of today’s superpipes (394 feet long with 11 1/2-foot walls vs. 590 feet with 22-foot walls in Sochi). Could today’s snowboarders compete with you guys back in 1998?

Powers: It was so different. At the time, I want to say it was the biggest pipe we rode, but compared to today’s standards, it’s small. The weather was tricky. I think a lot of those guys [today] could ride it, but it’s so much different than today’s halfpipe for sure.

OlympicTalk: In 2002, when you led a U.S. men’s halfpipe medal sweep, the rider who just missed the Olympic team was a 15-year-old Shaun White. What do you remember about him?

Powers: You kind of knew he was going to be the next guy. Where he took our sport and certain tricks. One thing that really impressed me about him is he’ll train really hard for an event, show up, even if the conditions are bad, he’s planned this trick he wants to do, and he’ll try it no matter what. Most of the time he’ll give it a go and land it. That actually hurt him in Russia [White attempted but couldn’t perfect the YOLO Flip 1440 in Sochi] because he probably could have stepped down a notch, gotten a medal and maybe even won the event.

OlympicTalk: Did Shaun ever beat you before you retired?

Powers: I had my run from 1998, ’99, ’00, ’01, all those times that I was doing really well. I tried to make the 2006 Olympics in Italy. I was the alternate, so I just missed that. He was definitely beating me up through those times.

OlympicTalk: Did you travel to the Torino Olympics as an alternate?

Powers: I did, yeah. I traveled over there and actually watched my buddy [Seth] Wescott win the gold in boarder cross. That night, he was like, you should try boarder cross. That kind of got me into doing that my next few years after that.

[Editor’s Note: Powers almost made the 2010 Olympic team in snowboard cross, even finishing third in a December 2009 World Cup.]

OlympicTalk: Which is tougher, coaching or competing?

Powers: I would say it is tougher coaching than competing. You just have so many responsibilities and so much work. The nice thing about coaching, though, compared to competing, is you can kind of push yourself and have fun [riding] on certain days but then also sit back and really work with the athletes on all other days. So when you’re feeling it, you can push yourself. So it’s not like an athlete, where you have to push yourself.

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