Gabby Douglas

Two years to Rio Olympics: Gymnastics storylines

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The telltale stat in U.S. women’s gymnastics is this: No American has made back-to-back Olympic teams since 1996 and 2000.

Of the five-member 2012 U.S. Olympic champion team, three have not competed since the London Games. One more hasn’t competed in 2014.

Start with Gabby Douglas, the Olympic all-around champion, who has moved from Iowa to Los Angeles back to Iowa and is now living in Ohio. She returned to a National Team camp for the first time since 2012 this spring but last week pushed back her anticipated competitive comeback to 2015.

Jordyn Wieber, the 2011 World all-around champion, is now at UCLA and hasn’t set a return date, if she returns at all. Aly Raisman, the Olympic floor exercise champion, also hasn’t competed since London, but she aims to return to a National Team camp in the fall.

Two years out: Rio’s readiness | Storylines: Swimming | Track and Field | Gymnastics | More Sports

McKayla Maroney bounced back from an Olympic vault silver medal performance to win the 2013 World Championship on the apparatus. She underwent knee surgery in March but said Saturday that she’s more determined than ever to make the 2016 Olympic Team.

Kyla Ross, the youngest member of the Fierce Five, is the only one who has competed through the last two years. She’s the reigning World all-around silver medalist.

Ross was beaten at the 2013 World Championships by Simone Biles, a powerful 4-foot-8 Texan who draws comparisons to 2008 Olympic balance beam champion Shawn Johnson.

Of course, Douglas, Wieber, Maroney and Ross were all juniors two years before the London Olympics. So the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team could be made up entirely of gymnasts we’ve yet to see perform at major international events.

Every member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic men’s team is still active, looking to return for 2016 and make up for that fifth-place finish.

Sam Mikulak is the reigning U.S. all-around champion, while Danell LeyvaJohn Orozco and Jonathan Horton each missed chunks of time the last two years with injuries. Horton, a two-time Olympian, is expected to compete for the first time since London at the P&G Championships in two weeks.

The balance of power in international gymnastics remains the same. The Chinese, Russian and Romanian women are still a threat to the U.S., and they’ll try to prove it at the first World Championships team competition since the Olympics in October.

Japan’s Kohei Uchimura won his fourth straight World Championship in the all-around in 2013 and is in the “greatest of all time” discussion at age 25. Japan, though, has been unable to beat China in a team competition at the Olympics or Worlds since 2004.

Major gymnastics events before Rio 2016:

2014 P&G Championships — Aug. 21-24, Pittsburgh
2014 World Championships — Oct. 3-13, Nanning, China
2015 P&G Championships — Aug. 13-16, 2015, Indianapolis
2015 World Championships — Oct. 23-Nov. 1, 2015, Glasgow, Scotland
2016 P&G Championships
2016 U.S. Olympic Trials

Ryan Lochte ‘wipes away the past’ in Power Bar video

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For the second time in as many months, Ryan Lochte stars in a jocular ad making a veiled reference to his Rio Olympic gas-station incident.

The swimmer wipes away “the past” on a foggy bathroom mirror and throws a blond wig out of a sunroof in a one-minute Power Bar video published Tuesday.

The company’s tag line in the video is “Clean Start.”

“For example, I am going to recommit myself to water sports,” Lochte says in the spot.

The ad follows a December video for Pine Bros. Softish Throat Drops, where Lochte starred in a spot with a closing banner that read, “Pine Bros.: In this Season of Forgiveness.”

Lochte had previously lost sponsorship deals, including with Speedo, after his Rio Olympic gas-station incident for which he was suspended through June by USA Swimming, plus for the world championships in July.

PHOTOS: Lochte set to be a father

U.S. Figure Skating Championships men’s preview

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The stage is set for Nathan Chen in Kansas City this week.

The 17-year-old is arguably the biggest favorite of any senior discipline at the U.S. Championships, looking to become the youngest U.S. men’s champion since 1966.

Chen, who boasts six quadruple jumps between his two programs, broke out at the Grand Prix Final in December by taking a silver medal. That propelled him to the top of U.S. men’s skating.

He outscored the reigning Olympic and world champions in the free skate at the Grand Prix Final in the best U.S. men’s international performance since Evan Lysacek won Olympic gold in 2010.

Chen’s chances for gold this week were boosted by the withdrawal of 2016 U.S. champion and training partner Adam Rippon due to a broken foot. And by 2015 U.S. champion Jason Brown‘s recent right leg injury.

Brown is still in the field, though, as is 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron. Chen, Brown and Aaron are vying for two spots on the team for the world championships in two months in Helsinki.

“Those are the very clear top three,” NBC Olympics analyst Johnny Weir said. “It’ll take a disaster or a performance of a lifetime for anybody else to get into that top three.”

Friday
Men’s short program — 8:30 p.m.-midnight ET, Universal HD
Sunday
Men’s free skate — 4-6 p.m., NBC

MORE: U.S. Championships broadcast schedule
PREVIEWS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Nathan Chen
Age: 17
Hometown: Salt Lake City
2016 Grand Prix Final silver medalist
2016 U.S. bronze medalist
Two-time U.S. junior and novice champion

Chen came back strong this season following the first major injury of his career suffered at least year’s nationals exhibition. Hip surgery kept Chen from making his world championships debut in 2016, but he’s now poised to lead the U.S. men into Helsinki, trying to earn three Olympic berths. First, Chen goes for his first senior national title.

Tara Lipinski’s Take: Nathan is the star of the show this year. The type of talent he has doesn’t come along every day. He possibly could be on the Olympic podium next year with the technical skating he’s giving us. Artistically, his component scores, if you look at him from last nationals to this nationals, he’s a different skater. He may not be [Olympic champion Yuzuru] Hanyu yet, but he has all the makings of a great, artistic male skater. I think he’s already giving us enough, to be honest.

Jason Brown
Age: 22
Hometown: Colorado Springs
2015 U.S. champion
Fourth at 2015 World Championships

Don’t forget that Brown was one spot off the podium at the 2015 Worlds. It’s been mostly a nightmare since for the 2014 Olympic sensation. Brown missed the 2016 U.S. Championships with a back strain and revealed last week that he was off the ice for the last two weeks of December with a stress fracture in his right fibula. Brown is the only man in this week’s field who has been within 40 points of Chen’s best total score this season.

Johnny Weir’s Take: Now that Adam Rippon is out, the artistic challenger, if he can land a quad, is Jason Brown. He’s won the national title before. He knows what it takes and what that kind of pressure feels like. That is an advantage he has over Nathan Chen. If he lands the quad and creates that artistic moment, he is very favored in the U.S. by the judging panel. He will need a quad toe loop if he’s going to hold off Nathan Chen.

Max Aaron
Age: 24
Hometown: Colorado Springs
2013 U.S. champion
2015 Skate America champion

Aaron may be the best pure athlete in the field. He has finished in the top four at nationals each of the last four years, but it’ll probably take top two this week to earn a world championships spot. He’ll likely have to beat the injured Brown.

Johnny Weir’s Take: He has great skating skills. He’s a wonderful athlete. But I don’t think his free program especially is strong enough choreographically to challenge either Nathan Chen or Jason Brown.

Grant Hochstein
Age: 26
Hometown: Artesia, Calif.
Fourth at 2016 U.S. Championships
10th at 2016 World Championships

Hochstein was placed on the 2016 World Championships team after Chen withdrew due to that hip injury. He finished a respectable 10th in his worlds debut but dropped to 11th in each of his fall Grand Prix starts. Hochstein ranks seventh this season among men in the U.S. Championships field.

Tim Dolensky
Age: 24
Hometown: Kennesaw, Ga.
Seventh at 2016 U.S. Championships

Dolensky had his best U.S. Championships finish last season and ranks behind only Chen, Brown, Rippon and Aaron among U.S. skaters’ top scores this season.

Vincent Zhou
Age: 16
Hometown: Riverside, Calif.
2013 U.S. junior champion
Fifth at 2016 World Junior Championships

Zhou would be a bigger threat if he hadn’t pulled out of his last event in December with a leg injury. Still, he has the jumping firepower, when he lands them, to contend for the podium when healthy.

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