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

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new uptempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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