John Orozco eyes quick return from second torn Achilles

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When John Orozco tore his right Achilles on Aug. 11, 2010, a doctor told him he probably shouldn’t do gymnastics anymore, and he probably would not be going to the Olympics.

Orozco competed 11 months later, won the U.S. all-around title in 2012 and earned a place on the London Olympic team.

When Orozco tore his right Achilles for a second time on June 15, he was told he’d be out about one year.

“I said, ‘That’s the wrong answer again,'” Orozco recalled last month.

He threw a pity party for two weeks after the setback and then refocused, writing out the skills he planned for Rio and getting to work.

Orozco, 22, was cleared in mid-November to return to gymnastics and continues to make progress, re-learning routines this fall, evidenced by his social media videos.

“I’ll be back in six months, pretty much,” Orozco said in November, crediting an aggressive doctor who performed the surgery. “That’s like, unheard of for an Achilles. It’s usually a solid year. I literally cut it in half. I owe that to sports medicine at the Olympic training center [in Colorado Springs].”

Orozco said he planned to compete in the Winter Cup in Las Vegas from Feb. 18-20, though taking it easy on vault and perhaps not doing floor exercise, the apparatus on which he suffered the injury in training.

He expects to compete on all six events at the P&G Championships and the Olympic trials in June, after which the five-man Olympic team will be named.

It would be an incredible comeback. Orozco said his toughest injury return actually came in 2013, when, one year after tearing an ACL, he won his first individual World Championships medal — bronze on parallel bars.

This year, Orozco couldn’t walk for about a month and a half after the Achilles tear. He was then fitted in a walking boot and said he almost cried when he took his first steps in Colorado while his training partners competed at the P&G Championships in Indianapolis in August.

“Everyone’s competing to go to Worlds, and I’m like, I took my first step,” Orozco joked.

The U.S. team at the World Championships in late October was without Olympians Sam MikulakJacob Dalton and Orozco, the top three finishers in the all-around at the 2014 P&G Championships.

There was concern the depleted Americans might not finish in the top eight in the team standings at Worlds, which would have forced them to try and qualify for the Olympics in April.

The U.S. made it easily, though, taking fifth, just as it did with Mikulak, Dalton and Orozco at London 2012 (though the Olympic finish was largely seen as a disappointment).

“I kind of checked out, because it’s hard for me to watch,” Orozco said of Worlds. “I always feel like, man, I should be there.”

If Orozco makes it back to the Olympics, he promises it will be a different experience. Everything unraveled in London, when Orozco fell off pommel horse in the team final and erred again on the apparatus in the all-around, finishing eighth when he would have taken silver had he repeated his qualifying pommel horse score.

The Bronx native has since worked on mental preparation with a sports psychologist. His new outlook?

“I honestly would not be saddened if I didn’t medal, but I gave it my best shot and I had my best performance,” Orozco said.

Orozco would bring with him to Rio a lucky charm — a rosary blessed by a priest at his Catholic school back home given to him by his mother, Damaris, who died in February.

“I bring it everywhere that I go,” Orozco said. “Having my rosary reminds me of my mom and having her there with me.”

MORE GYMNASTICS: 2008 Olympic medalist still competing in NCAA

Snowboarders sue coach, USOPC in assault, harassment case

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Olympic bronze medalist Rosey Fletcher has filed a lawsuit accusing former snowboard coach Peter Foley of sexually assaulting, harassing and intimidating members of his team for years, while the organizations overseeing the team did nothing to stop it.

Fletcher is a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Thursday. One names Foley, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the U.S. Ski & Snowboard team and its former CEO, Tiger Shaw, as defendants. Another, filed by a former employee of USSS, names Foley, Shaw and the ski federation as defendants.

One of the lawsuits, which also accuse the defendants of sex trafficking, harassment, and covering up repeated acts of sexual assault and misconduct, allege Foley snuck into bed and sexually assaulted Fletcher, then shortly after she won her bronze medal at the 2006 Olympics, approached her “and said he still remembered ‘how she was breathing,’ referring to the first time he assaulted her.”

The lawsuits describe Foley as fostering a depraved travel squad of snowboarders, in which male coaches shared beds with female athletes, crude jokes about sexual conquests were frequently shared and coaches frequently commented to the female athletes about their weight and body types.

“Male coaches, including Foley, would slap female athletes’ butts when they finished their races, even though the coaches would not similarly slap the butts of male athletes,” the lawsuit said. “Physical assault did not stop with slapping butts. Notably, a female athlete once spilled barbeque sauce on her chest while eating and a male coach approached her and licked it off her chest without warning or her consent.”

The USOPC and USSS knew of Foley’s behavior but did nothing to stop it, the lawsuit said. It depicted Foley as an all-powerful coach who could make and break athletes’ careers on the basis of how they got along off the mountain.

Foley’s attorney, Howard Jacobs, did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press. Jacobs has previously said allegations of sexual misconduct against Foley are false.

In a statement, the USOPC said it had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment on specific details but that “we take every allegation of abuse very seriously.”

“The USOPC is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Team USA athletes, and we are taking every step to identify, report, and eliminate abuse in our community,” the statement said.

It wasn’t until the Olympics in Beijing last year that allegations about Foley’s behavior and the culture on the snowboarding team started to emerge.

Allegations posted on Instagram by former team member Callan Chythlook-Sifsof — who, along with former team member Erin O’Malley, is a plaintiff along with Fletcher — led to Foley’s removal from the team, which he was still coaching when the games began.

That posting triggered more allegations in reporting by ESPN and spawned an AP report about how the case was handled between USSS and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is ultimately responsible for investigating cases involving sex abuse in Olympic sports. The center has had Foley on temporary suspension since March 18, 2022.

The AP typically does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault unless they have granted permission or spoken publicly, as Fletcher, Chythlook-Sifsof and O’Malley have done through a lawyer.

USSS said it was made aware of the allegations against Foley on Feb 6, 2022, and reported them to the SafeSport center.

“We are aware of the lawsuits that were filed,” USSS said in a statement. “U.S. Ski & Snowboard has not yet been served with the complaint nor has had an opportunity to fully review it. U.S. Ski & Snowboard is and will remain an organization that prioritizes the safety, health and well-being of its athletes and staff.”

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages to be determined in a jury trial.

Oleksandr Abramenko, Ukraine’s top Winter Olympian, tears knee, career in question

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Aerials skier Oleksandr Abramenko, who won both of Ukraine’s medals over the last two Winter Olympics, is out for the season after a knee ligament tear and said he might not return to competition at all, according to Ukrainian media.

Abramenko, 34, won gold at the 2018 Olympics — Ukraine’s second-ever individual Winter Olympic title after figure skater Oksana Baiul in 1994 — and silver last year.

He competed once this season, placing 10th at a World Cup in Finland on Dec. 4, and then flew with the Ukrainian national team to stay in Utah ahead of World Cups in Canada in January and at the 2002 Olympic venue in Park City this weekend. The area also hosted many Ukraine winter sports athletes this past summer.

Abramenko missed the competition in Canada two weeks ago due to injury and then wasn’t on the start list for today’s aerials event in Park City. He is set to miss the world championships later this month in Georgia (the country, not the state).

Abramenko said he needs surgery, followed by a nine-month rehabilitation process, similar to an operation on his other knee six years ago, according to Ukraine’s public broadcaster. He said he will see how the recovery goes and determine whether to return to the sport at age 35, according to the report.

Abramenko is already the oldest Olympic men’s aerials medalist and come the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games will be older than all but one male aerialist in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.org.

At last year’s Olympics, Abramenko, Ukraine’s flag bearer at the Opening Ceremony, was hugged after the aerials final by Russian Ilya Burov, who finished one spot behind Abramenko for a bronze medal. A week later, Russia invaded Ukraine.

A week after that, Abramenko posed for a photo sitting on a mattress in a Kyiv parking garage with his wife and 2-year-old son published by The New York Times.

“We spend the night in the underground parking in the car, because the air attack siren is constantly on,” Abramenko texted, according to the newspaper. “It’s scary to sleep in the apartment, I myself saw from the window how the air defense systems worked on enemy missiles, and strong explosions were heard.”

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