John Orozco looks to 2016 after tearing Achilles

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NEW YORK — John Orozco smiled often during his TODAY show appearance Wednesday to celebrate the one-year countdown to the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The 2012 Olympic gymnast laughed as he participated in a “Culinary Olympics” with fellow Olympians retired swimmer Janet Evans and soccer player Christie Rampone.

Orozco hardly looked like a man who on June 18 posted on social media, “my family life, my career, and my spirit seem to be falling apart and crumbling into pieces.”

“There is nothing life can throw at me that will keep me down,” Orozco said Wednesday at Rockefeller Plaza. “I have been through so much already.”

Orozco’s recent adversity started in February, when his mother, Damaris, died. Growing up, Damaris regularly drove her son more than an hour to gymnastics practice, despite battling lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Orozco still does not feel comfortable discussing his mother’s death publicly, other than to say, “with the support of my family, we can get through anything.”

After his mother’s death, Orozco focused his remaining energy on training for the summer’s Pan American Games. But he soon encountered even more challenges.

While performing a double twisting back on a floor exercise pass on a Monday in June, Orozco felt a sudden pain in his right leg. He matter-of-factly told his coach that he tore an Achilles tendon. His coach was skeptical, assuming that somebody who had suffered such a traumatic injury would be screaming in pain. But Orozco turned out to be right.

“I have never been the type to really freak out when I get injured,” Orozco said. “I do that on my own afterwards.”

He did not shed his first tear until after undergoing surgery later that week. Orozco, who refers to himself as a “veteran at being injured,” also suffered a torn Achilles in August 2010. He recovered in time to compete at the Japan Cup less than 11 months later. He then suffered a torn left ACL in October 2012 and returned to win a bronze medal on parallel bars at the 2013 World Championships.

His most recent Achilles injury will prevent Orozco from going to the World Championships in October, but he never considered quitting the sport.

“Absolutely not,” Orozco said. “I have had this injury before, so I know I can come back from it. I know what to do this time around.”

He is targeting a return in 2016 and will focus on events that require upper-body strength, such as the pommel horse, rather than leg-intensive events.

“The good thing about it is my key events for the Olympic and World teams for the U.S. are not floor involved,” Orozco said. “I can start training for those already before I even start running.”

Refusing to let his injury slow him down, the 22-year-old even performed a handstand on the TODAY set while wearing a protective boot over his right foot.

“I realize that I am getting a little older in gymnastics,” Orozco said. “I now know I need to be smarter and treat my body right.”

In the same June 18 social media post, Orozco wrote that he kept asking himself, “why is this happening right now? Where’s the lesson in this?”

He found a lesson in the recent weeks of reflection.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Orozco said. “This is just another battle to win.”

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Hayato Sakamoto, Japanese baseball MVP, tests positive for coronavirus

Hayato Sakamoto
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Hayato Sakamoto, an MVP of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league, is one of two players from the Yomiuri Giants to test positive for the coronavirus, according to several Japanese media reports.

Sakamoto, a 31-year-old shortstop, and catcher Takumi Oshiro tested positive ahead of the NPB’s planned June 19 start to the season that had been delayed to the coronavirus.

The tests showed traces of the coronavirus, according to Kyodo News.

The Giants canceled Wednesday’s practice game with the Seibu Lions to limit the spread of the virus.

Sakamoto is the reigning Central League MVP. He has been called the Derek Jeter of Japan for playing the same position as the Yankee great and being the veteran captain of Japan’s equivalent club, the Giants, which own a record 22 Japan Series titles.

Sakamoto, who played in the last two World Baseball Classics, has been considered a lock for Japan’s baseball team at the Tokyo Games in 2021 as the most well known active player who hasn’t left for Major League Baseball. MLB is not expected to allow its top players to participate in the Olympics, which would keep the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Masahiro Tanaka off the Olympic roster.

The sport returns to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008, though it is not on the 2024 Olympic program nor guaranteed a place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Japan reached the semifinals of all five Olympic baseball tournaments when the sport was previously on the medal program but never took gold.

In a 2018 survey, Sakamoto was ranked as Japan’s eighth-most popular athlete across all sports, foreign or domestic, active or retired.

Sky Brown, 11-year-old Olympic skateboard hopeful, suffers serious injuries in fall

Sky Brown Skateboard Fall
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Sky Brown, an 11-year-old British Olympic skateboarding hopeful, recently suffered her worst fall, requiring surgery, she said in a video posted from a hospital bed.

Brown suffered skull fractures and broke her left wrist and hand and was at first unresponsive upon arrival to a hospital, according to the BBC, which quoted her father.

Video of the fall from a skateboarding ramp was posted on her social media. She appeared to be wearing a helmet in the video.

“I don’t usually post my falls or talk about them because I want people to see the fun in what I do,” Brown said. “But this was my worst fall, and I just want everyone to know that, it’s OK, don’t worry. I’m OK. It’s OK to fall sometimes. I’m just going to get back up and push even harder. I know there’s a lot of things going on in the world right now. I want everyone to know that whatever we do, we’ve just go to do it with love and happiness.”

Brown is the 2019 World bronze medalist in the new Olympic sport’s park discipline.

Later Tuesday, Brown reposted an Instagram post from what appeared to be her father’s account. The caption of that post said Brown fell 15 feet to flat concrete.

“I held her in my arms and she bled helplessly moaning in and out of consciousness waiting for the helicopter to take her to the Hospital,” the caption read. “We spent the night sick and terrified not knowing if Sky was going to make it through the night, as the ICU team tried to get her conscious and kept her alive.

“4 days later Sky sits across from me with her full memory back, smiling, watching TikTok while Eating her favorite bad snacks.”

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Last week the worst thing I could ever ever imagined happened to @skybrown . She fell about 15ft off the side of a vert ramp to flat concrete. I held her in my arms and she bled helplessly moaning in and out of consciousness waiting for the helicopter to take her to the Hospital. We spent the night sick and terrified not knowing if Sky was going to make it through the night, as the ICU team tried to get her conscious and kept her alive. We prayed and begged God to give Sky another chance. Word came back while she was still unconscious, multiple fractures to her skull, a broken left arm, which she broke into pieces because she used it to break her fall, broken right fingers and lacerations to her heart and lungs. 4 days later Sky sits across from me with her full memory back, smiling, watching TikTok while Eating her favorite bad snacks. More importantly her Doctors and the trauma team say it’s a miracle how well she is dealing with the pain and recovering incredibly fast. They said it’s shocking and believe it’s because of her grit, positivity and attitude. Skys brother @oceanbrown has been so brave. He saw his sister fall to the ground lying in a pool of blood and was screaming in tears that night outside of the hospital. He has still not allowed into the hospital to see her. They miss each-other dearly, but no siblings are allowed to enter the hospital because of coronavirus. They’ve been spending hours a day on FaceTime with each other making funny faces to one another in fits of giggles and laughter. Sky promises Ocean daily that she will make a fast recovery so they can be together again. Sky is constantly joking and smiling and it’s hurts my heart to even imagine for a second a world without Sky; extremely thankful that I don’t have to. Thank you to the heroes that are the doctors, nurses and hospital staff that have tirelessly worked on her and helped her get to this point.

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