John Orozco eyes quick return from second torn Achilles

John Orozco
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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

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

Kenenisa Bekele
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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

Yalemzerf Yehualaw
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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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