John Orozco

John Orozco’s mom on his mind as he leads P&G Championships

Leave a comment

PITTSBURGH — John Orozco strode off the competition floor and behind a black curtain at the Consol Energy Center. He checked his phone, and he grinned.

“She’s been texting me the whole time,” he said.

Orozco methodically marched to a surprising all-around lead on the first night of men’s competition at the P&G Championships on Friday. But he’s also in a rush to finish, fly home to the Bronx and see the person on the other end of that messaging conversation.

Orozco scored 90.75 points over six routines, edging Olympic teammate Jacob Dalton by .5 for first place halfway through the competition to crown the U.S.’ best gymnast.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will air coverage of the second half Sunday from 2:30-4 p.m. ET. Gymnasts are also competing to be selected for the six-man team for the World Championships in Nanning, China, in the fall.

Orozco’s backstory was well told during the London Olympics.

One of five children raised by Puerto Rican parents, his mom, Damaris, used to drive him daily from the Bronx to the hamlet Chappaqua for gymnastics practice, usually more than an hour away with traffic.

Orozco’s parents aren’t in Pittsburgh watching him compete this week. He prefers it that way.

Damaris, who has lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, is having trouble with one of her surgically replaced knees. A decade ago, doctors inserted a metal rod to help her walk. Now, the rod is pushing her kneecap out to the side.

“They’ve been pushing [surgery] back for a month,” Orozco said. “They’ll push it back for another month unless they can somehow find money to pay for it.

“I’m going to give all the money I can so my mom can get this done with already. I’m so worried about her right now because I know she’s the kind to tough through it, even though it might not be smart for her to do it. She’s really tough, so I know she’ll push through it. I don’t want her to go through that right now.”

Orozco posted the highest scores on parallel bars (15.25) and high bar (15.7) Friday night. He did so with little pain, remarkable given his history.

The 2012 U.S. champion Orozco finished fourth in the all-around last year while wearing a knee brace after tearing an ACL and meniscus in October 2012. Orozco also tore an Achilles in 2010.

He was initially left off the 2013 World Championships team but added when 2011 U.S. champion Danell Leyva pulled out with a shoulder injury.

Orozco won bronze on parallel bars at Worlds, but another Olympic teammate, Sam Mikulak, had ascended to the top U.S. all-around threat. Mikulak beat Orozco at the American Cup in March.

Mikulak, the favorite coming into competition here, struggled on parallel bars and fell on his butt on floor exercise. He’s in fourth place, 2.35 points behind Orozco.

“It’s not over,” Mikulak said. “I’m excited to get out there and redeem myself.”

The men’s competition this weekend is bringing the gang back together. The entire 2012 U.S. Olympic team is here, including two-time Olympic medalist Jonathan Horton performing for the first time since London. He’s in 12th.

Leyva, Orozco and Horton all entered with points to prove, overcoming injuries or performance struggles. Orozco felt it.

“I was still kind of peeing my pants before some of the events that I was on,” he said, but adding, “it really felt like I was myself out there again.”

Orozco’s nerves were tested on the final event Friday. He went to the pommel horse, where he had fallen apart in the team final of the London Olympics, scoring 12.733 points two years ago. The U.S. team, which entered with medal expectations, finished fifth in London.

Orozco stayed on the horse this time, scoring 14.5 points (fourth out of 30 men).

After he dismounted, Leyva revealed to Orozco that his nightmarish pommel horse routine from the Olympics had played on the jumbotron before he went to perform.

“I’m really glad I didn’t see that before I went up,” Orozco said.

If Orozco finishes in the top two in the all-around after Sunday, and top three in at least three individual events, he will secure a spot on the World Championships team. The same team he initially didn’t make last year.

“All I can do is finish Sunday,” Orozco said, “and get home as fast as I can to help her out.”

Bond between Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles

Final three Pyeongchang Olympic men’s hockey spots set to be filled

Anze Kopitar
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The 2018 Olympic men’s hockey field of 12 teams will be complete by the end of this weekend.

The last three spots will go to winners of three round-robin qualifying tournaments in Europe that run from Thursday through Sunday.

The Olympic Channel will stream the action.

The current Olympic men’s hockey groups (world ranking in parentheses):

Group A Group B Group C
Canada (1) Russia (2) Finland (3)
Czech Republic (6) USA (4) Sweden (5)
Switzerland (7) Slovakia (8) Qualifier 1
South Korea (23 — host) Qualifier 3 Qualifier 2

Those three qualifiers will be the winners of these three tournaments this weekend:

Tournament 1 Tournament 2 Tournament 3
Belarus (9 — host) Germany (10) Norway (11 — host)
Denmark (13) Latvia (12 — host) France (14)
Slovenia (15) Austria (17) Kazakhstan (16)
Poland (20) Japan (21) Italy (18)

All of the Olympic medal contenders are among the nine nations already in the Pyeongchang field, but a few notables are vying for spots this weekend.

Belarus memorably upset Sweden in the 2002 Olympic quarterfinals and wound up fourth in Salt Lake City. It last competed in the Olympics in 2010. Belarus’ biggest competition in its qualifying tournament may be Slovenia, which won two games at the Sochi Olympics and is led by Los Angeles Kings All-Star Anze Kopitar.

Like Belarus, Germany also last played at the Olympics in 2010. More recently, it beat the U.S. at the World Championship in May, behind New York Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss. To get to Pyeongchang, Germany must top a group that includes host Latvia, which made the last four Olympics and beat Switzerland in Sochi.

Norway hosts the group with the least amount of recent Olympic experience. None of France, Kazakhstan or Italy made either of the last two Olympics. Norway ought to be favored, then, since it reached the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, though it lost every contest at both Winter Games. New York Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello stars for the Norwegians.

It’s unknown whether the NHL will send its players to the 2018 Olympics.

MORE: Canada holds Soviet-like dominance after another world hockey title

Four more Beijing 2008 medalists stripped after doping retests

FILE - In this Aug. 7, 2008 file photo, a protective fence shows a Beijing 2008 logo outside the National Stadium, known as the "Birds Nest", in Beijing. Three Olympic champion weightlifters from China and eight other medalists stand to be stripped of their titles after failing retests of their doping samples from the 2008 Olympics. Chinese gold medalists Cao Lei, Liu Chunhong and Chen Xiexia all tested positive for GHRP-2, which stimulates growth hormone production, while Liu also tested positive for the stimulant sibutramine.
(AP Photo/Petr David Josek, file)
AP
Leave a comment

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The IOC has stripped four more athletes — including three Russians — of medals from the 2008 Beijing Olympics after their doping samples were retested and came back positive.

A total of six athletes were sanctioned Wednesday by the International Olympic Committee based on reanalysis of their samples with improved techniques. They were among the 98 positive cases recorded in the retesting of samples from Beijing and the 2012 London Olympics.

The IOC says Tatyana Firova was stripped of her silver medal in the women’s 4×400-meter relay after testing positive for turinabol and other steroids. She also had her ninth-place finish in the individual 400m annulled.

Russia had already been stripped of the relay medal earlier this month when Anastasia Kapachinskaya tested positive.

MORE: Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse