Jordan Burroughs wins wrestling world title 4 weeks after breaking ankle

Jordan Burroughs
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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

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

Lucas Braathen
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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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