Jonathan Horton plans return at U.S. Championships

Jonathan Horton
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Jonathan Horton is coming back from a “gnarly” two years, hoping to make a statement in his first gymnastics competition since the London Olympics.

“My No. 1 goal is to compete well and regain confidence in my own mind that, hey, I’m doing the right thing by training again, that I’m an important member of this team,” Horton, a two-time 2008 Olympic medalist, said in a phone interview Friday. “I think there are a lot of people who are counting me out. They’re saying, ‘He’s had a good run. He’s washed up. He’s finished.'”

Horton plans to compete in all six events at the U.S. Championships from Aug. 22-24 in Pittsburgh. It would be his first meet since a disappointing London Games, where the U.S. was expected to win a team medal at a third straight Olympics but finished fifth.

That result motivated Horton, now 28, to pursue a third Olympic berth in 2016. No U.S. gymnast has made three Olympic teams since Blaine Wilson in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Horton was the oldest member of the 2012 U.S. men’s gymnastics team, the only returning Olympian, and in 2016 would be the oldest U.S. men’s gymnast since 1956, according to sports-reference.com.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot of gas still in the tank,” Horton said. “I’m still learning. I’m still getting stronger. You can probably ask anybody who is close to me if I was happy with how things went down in London. No. I can’t end my career like that. Whether I make another Olympic team or not, I’m going to do everything I can and hopefully help Team USA redeem itself a little bit.”

Horton took sixth in the London Olympic high bar final with a right shoulder that would require nearly complete reconstructive surgery. He waited until after the Olympics to get an MRI, which revealed tears in two parts of his rotator cuff, his labrum and his bicep.

“We don’t know how you did what you just did [compete in the Olympics], because your shoulder’s torn to shreds,” a doctor told him.

He had the surgery in December 2012, after a painful post-Olympic tour, and needed nine months to recover.

“It was worth every bit of the surgery and pain I went through,” Horton said. “It’s like a brand-new shoulder.”

Horton then tore a pectoral muscle at a National Team camp in December 2013, requiring another surgery and three more months of recovery.

“I lost pretty much all my strength,” said Horton, a married father of an 11-month-old son, David, who is showing early gymnastics promise. “I was skinny and nothing.”

Horton said he feels healthier now than at any point in the last two years. He’s in the gym four to six hours per day and putting routines together. The most difficult apparatus to regain full strength on has been still rings, where he says he’s at about 50 percent after performing his first iron cross skill two weeks ago.

Horton, the U.S. all-around champion in 2009 and 2010, petitioned onto the U.S. National Team for this year.

He’s aiming for a top-three all-around finish at the U.S. Championships in August, where the favorites ought to be the last two U.S. champions, 2012 Olympic teammates Sam Mikulak and John Orozco.

“In the past I would have said, ‘I’ve got to win [the U.S. all-around title],'” Horton said. “I have a very realistic goal for myself. Compete, do a good job and be confident.”

Horton isn’t optimistic about his chances to make the six-man team for the World Championships in October in China, even though a top-three U.S. all-around finish would probably merit a spot.

The U.S. depth has only increased in Horton’s absence. Four different American men won individual apparatus medals at the 2013 World Championships.

“I think there’s a slim chance to make the worlds team,” Horton said. “Unless I’m in tip-top shape on every event, I’m just not sure it will happen.

“I’m kind of keeping my hopes low and trying not to get too crazy. My No. 1 goal is Rio.”

Gabby Douglas to return to U.S. National Team camp

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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