John Orozco
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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

Went too hard w/ new skills yesterday Beside crashin I'm actually proud of this. Took a year to relearn stalder technique to attempt this skill. Tip for younger gymnast: Take your basics seriously because its harder to relearn technique than it is to learn new skills. #usagymnastics #crash #basics #smallvictories

Posted by John Orozco on Wednesday, December 2, 2015

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.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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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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