John Orozco

American Cup gymnastics preview; TV schedule

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The summer Olympic sports season begins in earnest in March, starting Saturday with the biggest annual international gymnastics competition held in the U.S.

The American Cup in Greensboro, N.C., includes 2012 Olympians John Orozco and Sam Mikulak and Elizabeth Price and Brenna Dowell, who are in the (very) early running for 2016 Olympic spots.

The American Cup runs from 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. ET on Saturday. The first 90 minutes will be streamed here. NBC will carry live coverage from 1-3 p.m.

How important is the American Cup? Take a look at past results.

In 2013, Katelyn Ohashi and Simone Biles went one-two in their senior international debuts. Ohashi, a product of the same gym as Olympic champions Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin, would miss the 2013 U.S. Championships and World Championships after an injury.

Biles stayed healthy, though, and won the U.S. Championship and was the most decorated gymnast at the World Championships — winning two gold medals, one silver and one bronze.

Biles, who is 16 and nursing a shoulder injury, will miss this year’s event and will move to a new gym, leaving the site she’s trained at since age 6.

2012 Olympian Jacob Dalton won the men’s competition in 2013 and went on to take floor exercise silver at the World Championships.

A better perspective for Olympic prospects might be the 2010 American Cup, two years before the London Olympics.

Rebecca Bross and Aly Raisman went one-two on the women’s side. Bross, a two-time world all-around medalist, was set up for a run at the 2012 Olympic Team before injuries struck.

Raisman went to be a leader of the gold-medal-winning 2012 Olympic Team and added two individual medals in London.

The men’s competition in 2010 went to Russian Maksim Devyatovskiy, who did not make the 2012 Olympic Team.

The 2014 U.S. Championships are Aug. 21-24 in Pittsburgh. The 2014 World Championships are in October in Nanning, China.

Here are the full American Cup fields:

Men
Sam Mikulak (USA)
John Orozco (USA)
Fabian Gonzalez (ESP)
Fabien Hambuechen (GER)
Andrey Likhovitskiy (BLR)
Shogo Nonomura (JPN)
Sam Oldham (GBR)
Daniel Purvis (GBR)
Sergio Sasaki Junior (BRA)

Women
Brenna Dowell (USA)
Elizabeth Price (USA)
Carlotta Ferlito (ITA)
Vanessa Ferrari (ITA)
Victoria Moors (CAN)
Roxana Popa Nedelcu (ESP)
Sophie Scheder (GER)
Giulia Steingruber (SUI)

Winter Olympic champions make Wheaties boxes

World Cup Alpine season opener gets green light

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After checking the snow on the Rettenbach glacier in Soelden, Austria, FIS officials announced Thursday that the traditional World Cup season opener is set to go ahead as planned Oct. 26-27 with men’s and women’s giant slalom races.

Current conditions at Soelden show a solid 30 inches of snow at the summit. The race finishes at an altitude of 2,670 meters (8,760 feet), far above the currently snowless village.

The first races of the season are never guaranteed to have enough snow, though last year’s men’s race at Soelden had the opposite problem, being canceled when a storm blew through with heavy snowfall and high winds. 

France’s Tessa Worley won the women’s race last year ahead of Italy’s Frederica Brignone and U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, who would go on to dominate the rest of the World Cup season.

The Soelden weekend is followed by three dormant weeks until the season resumes Nov. 23-24 in Levi, Finland. The World Cup circuits then switch to North America. The men will run speed events Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Lake Louise, Alberta, then head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for more speed events and a giant slalom Dec. 6-8. The women run slalom and giant slalom Nov. 30-Dec. 1 in Killington, Vt., and head to Lake Louise the next weekend.

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Olympic marathon and race walk move from Tokyo to Sapporo draws some pushback

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In the wake of a dropout-plagued set of world championship endurance races in Qatar, moving the 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks from Tokyo to the cooler venue of Sapporo is a quick fix for one problem, pending the potential for untimely heat waves.

But the move has drawn some opposition for a variety of reasons.

First, many organizers and politicians appear to have been caught by surprise. Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, was “taken aback” and Sapporo’s mayor, Katsuhiro Akimoto, learned about the move from the media, Kyodo News reported. Koike even sarcastically suggested that the races could move all the way northward to islands disputed by Russia and Japan.

South African sports scientist Ross Tucker suggested that running in heat and humidity poses an interesting challenge for athletes, some of whom may be able to catch up with faster runners by preparing for the conditions.

British marathoner Mara Yamauchi made a similar point, saying the move was unfair to those who already were preparing for the heat, humidity and other conditions.

Belgian marathoner Koen Naert said he will make the best of the change but complained that some of his preparation and every runner’s logistical planning would no longer apply.

The angriest athlete may be Canadian walker Evan Dunfee, who placed fourth in the 2016 Olympic 50km race and nearly claimed bronze as a Canadian appeal was upheld but then rejected. He says runners and walkers can beat the conditions if they prepare, which many athletes did not do for the world championships in Qatar.

“So why do we cater to the ill prepared?” Dunfee asked on Twitter.

The move also takes athletes out of the main Olympic city and takes away the traditional, tough less frequent in modern years, finish in the Olympic stadium.

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