Jonathan Horton

Jonathan Horton boosted by 2008 teammate to successful return

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PITTSBURGH — They delivered the diagnosis to Jonathan Horton while he was on a table in December. A torn pec.

If Horton had ended his career then and there, he would go down as one of the greatest U.S. men’s gymnasts ever.

He led the program in 2008, when an Olympic team bronze meant surprising success, and contributed through 2012, when not making the Olympic team podium meant unexpected failure.

Horton competed in London with a right shoulder “torn to shreds,” a doctor told him right after the Games. Reconstructive surgery. Rehab. Return. Then the torn pec at a national team camp.

So Horton, on that table, heard the news. He gazed at a group around him, including his coach.

“I’ll be at Championships,” he said. Horton meant the P&G Championships, to be held eight months later.

“I was like, uh … OK, he’s being a little aggressive,” said Tom Meadows, Horton’s coach. “We all know the reality of a torn pec.”

The reality was Horton was at P&G Championships, his first competition since the London Olympics. He finished eighth in the all-around and made the U.S. national team.

Horton was not selected for the six-man World Championships squad, but he did accept a spot on the team for the Pan American Championships in Toronto this week.

“What a testament,” Meadows said Sunday.

Truth is, Meadows doubted Horton even on the final day of competition at Consol Energy Center.

“I was concerned coming into [Sunday] if he was going to be able to make all six events, just to make it through, because he was tired,” he said.

Horton’s status was complicated in the hotel shower Sunday morning.

He inadvertently slammed his elbow into a soap tray.

“Like full force,” Horton said. “My elbow split open.”

He didn’t know it at the time, but it was a burst bursa sac. Horton walked out of the shower and turned to his wife, Haley, a former gymnast and medical student.

“Is this normal?” Horton asked.

Haley “freaked out” (Horton’s words) and helped compress the elbow with tape.

“It didn’t affect me at all [Sunday],” Horton said. “It stiffened up a little bit, but not a big deal.”

Horton performed better Sunday than he did the first day of competition Friday, despite his coach’s fear and his shower slip up. He was 12th in the all-around after Friday. He was fifth best Sunday to move up to eighth overall.

“It wasn’t perfect,” Horton said. “I would say, in terms of where I want to be in two years [in Rio de Janeiro as the oldest U.S. Olympic men’s gymnast since 1956], I’m about 50 percent. I’ve got a lot of work to do to catch up to these guys, but I’m up to the challenge.”

He expects to be able to hang with Sam Mikulak, who on Sunday became the first man since Horton to win back-to-back U.S. all-around titles. Mikulak is seven years younger than Horton, a 2012 Olympic teammate.

One of Horton’s 2008 Olympic teammates was in his ear Sunday — Raj Bhavsar. Bhavsar didn’t make his one and only Olympic team until he was nearly 28 years old, as an injury replacement, and after being an alternate in 2004.

He approached Horton before competition and offered some help.

“[Bhavsar] was like hey man, if you’re OK with it, I know what you’re going through,” Horton said. “You’re the older guy out here. You’ve gone through surgeries. You’re trying to push through and stay up to this level. He’s like, if you want man, I can help you out. I can give you some advice.

“I said, absolutely. Stay in my ear, because I’m dead. I’m exhausted. I needed it.”

“I kind of walked in here afraid to compete because of how tired I felt. It shows that the mental side of gymnastics is so important because mentally I stayed in my own little world and just relaxed instead of being so uptight [Sunday].”

Coincidentally, Horton also rotated Sunday with the man Bhavsar filled in for on the 2008 Olympic team, the 2004 Olympic all-around champion Paul Hamm.

Hamm was coaching another gymnast in Horton’s group. Hand and shoulder injuries eventually forced Hamm off the Beijing Olympic team, and he eventually retired for good in 2012.

Horton hopes he’s not yet in the twilight of his career. He insists he could compete in 2020.

“I’m extremely happy with the path that I’m on,” Horton said.

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Michael Phelps, Nicole Johnson secretly married in June

OMAHA, NE - JULY 01:  Michael Phelps (L) of the United States celebrates with his fiance Nicole Johnson (R) and their son Boomer (C) after finishing first in the final heat for the Men's 200 Meter Individual Medley during Day Six of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Swimming Trials at CenturyLink Center on July 1, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. (AP) — Michael Phelps can add getting married to his long list of accomplishments this year.

The Arizona Republic reports the 31-year-old Olympic swimming champion secretly married longtime girlfriend Nicole Johnson on June 13, a little more than a month after the former Miss California USA gave birth to their son, Boomer.

The newspaper has posted a copy of a marriage license that shows Phelps and Johnson were married in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Neither Phelps, nor Johnson said anything about the wedding. Johnson posted a picture of her with Phelps and Boomer on Instagram on the day of the ceremony with the caption, “Such a memorable night with my lil fambam.”

Phelps won five more gold medals in this year’s Rio Games to increase his overall haul to 23.

VIDEO: Phelps appears in ‘Call of Duty’ trailer

Such a memorable night with my lil fambam 😍💖 boomer obviously didn't want to hold still🙈

A photo posted by Nicole Michele Johnson (@nicole.m.johnson) on

Three more weightlifters stripped of Olympic gold medals

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 05:  Weights sit in a rack during the Women's 75kg Weightlifting on Day 9 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at ExCeL on August 5, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Three female weightlifters from Kazakhstan have been stripped of gold medals from the 2012 London Olympics after failing retests of their doping samples.

The Kazakh lifters were among eight athletes sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee on Thursday after their stored samples came back positive for steroids.

Zulfiya Chinshanlo, Maiya Maneza and Svetlana Podobedova have been stripped of the gold medals they won in the 53-kilogram, 63kg and 75kg divisions, respectively. All three tested positive for the steroid stanozolol, with Chinshanlo’s sample also containing oxandrolone.

The IOC did not say whether the medals would be reallocated to other athletes. If that happens, Christine Girard of Canada would be elevated to silver in the 63kg class and could get gold if a failed doping test from a Russian lifter who was the original second-place finisher also results in a ban.

Also Thursday, a female weightlifter from Belarus was stripped of a bronze medal. Marina Shkermankova had finished third in the 69kg class. Also disqualified were two other Belarusian lifters, a Russian hammer thrower and a Russian pole vaulter, none of whom won medals.

The punishments for the Kazakh and Belarusian weightlifters are now set to trigger an automatic one-year ban from all international weightlifting competitions for the two countries under International Weightlifting Federation rules imposing automatic bans if at least three of a country’s athletes fail Olympic retests.

The IOC said a case against a Russian wrestler who won a silver medal was dropped because he died in a car crash three years ago. The IOC disciplinary commission said Besik Kudukhov‘s result will stand because it cannot rule on doping cases involving the dead.

“The situation is unsatisfactory as it implies that Olympic results which would probably have had to be reviewed will remain uncorrected,” the commission noted in its ruling.

The IOC stores doping samples for 10 years so they can be reanalyzed when improved testing methods become available.

The IOC recorded a total of 98 positive cases in recent retests of samples from the London Games and 2008 Beijing Olympics, with almost half of the cases in weightlifting.

Weightlifting has long struggled with doping, but is under particular pressure over the retests. In one event from 2012, six of the top-10 finishers have tested positive.

In August, IWF president Tamas Ajan told The Associated Press he hoped the sport would be allowed to stay on the Olympic program for future games despite its struggles with steroids, and said he wanted to ban leading countries from the sport for a year in a process he likened to shock therapy.

The retests have also implicated a Kazakh gold medalist who is the sport’s biggest star on social media. Ilya Ilyin has failed retests from both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, though the IOC has not yet finished processing those cases.

MORE: Six of top seven from Olympic event positive in doping retests