Shaun White

Shaun White ‘more motivated’ to compete than before Sochi

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Shaun White is more motivated to keep competing after his Olympic disappointment, particularly in slopestyle, he said on a New York media tour Tuesday.

In Sochi, White pulled out of the first Olympic slopestyle competition the day before it went off, citing injury risk on the modified course. He did enter the halfpipe and finished fourth, failing to defend a title he won at the 2006 and 2010 Olympics.

In his first interviews after finishing fourth, White said he wasn’t sure he would try for a fourth Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. One day later, asked if he would try for 2018 at age 31, he said, “I think so.”

White’s stance is a little more optimistic, seven months later.

“I’d love to be there,” White told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

“I feel way more motivated than I did before the Olympics,” White told “SI Now.” “That’s the blessing in disguise [from what happened in Sochi]. … It’s like that terrible scenario where you’re like, I remember that was the hardest time of my life, but this happened because of that. … It’s that moment, I just haven’t had enough time to pass to really see what the benefits are yet.”

White hasn’t competed since Sochi, instead touring with his band, Bad Things.

“The funniest thing I heard is I’m retiring,” White said on “SI Now.” “Media, in a sense, it can get twisted and turned in different ways. I think somebody in passing asked me if I was feeling like retiring, and I said no. The headline read, ‘Shaun White contemplates retirement.’ I’m like, whoa, technically, I guess, yes, I did contemplate it for that minute, but I never really thought about it. So I’m excited to get out and compete and show, put that rumor to rest.”

And he’s not done with slopestyle, either. He’ll have an entire Olympic cycle to balance halfpipe and slopestyle for Pyeongchang.

“I would be lying to say I didn’t maybe bite off a little more than I could chew for this [past] Olympics, just training-wise, it was a gauntlet to try to do both [halfpipe and slopestyle],” White said on “SI Now.” “I’m probably more poised to compete in slopestyle in the next Olympics.”

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Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

Sam Mikulak
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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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