Mary Lou Retton
AP

Mary Lou Retton reflects on 1985 American Cup win, retirement decision

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NEW YORK — Gabby Douglas headlines the AT&T American Cup on Saturday, kicking off a season that she hopes ends in Rio, where she could become the first U.S. Olympic all-around champion to compete in the following Games.

But if Douglas prevails Saturday in Newark, N.J. (NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra, 1 p.m. ET), she will become the second reigning U.S. Olympic all-around champion to win an American Cup.

Recall Mary Lou Retton, who at the Los Angeles 1984 Games became the first U.S. Olympic all-around champion, like Douglas at age 16.

Retton did not retire until 1986. In between, she competed at one more top-level international meet, winning the 1985 American Cup in Indianapolis.

“Winning that meant more to me than anything I think, really, in my career, because even going into the Olympics I was a relatively unknown gymnast, and I wasn’t supposed to win [in Los Angeles],” Retton said Friday. “[Romanian] Ecaterina Szabo was World champion, and she was supposed to win that [Olympic] title. So the pressure was never on me. I was always the underdog. And then going into ’85 American Cup, I was supposed to win. That’s a whole different mindset.”

Retton’s appearance at the 1985 American Cup, where she went for a three-peat at the event, was billed as a bit of a comeback story.

The TV broadcast reported she took five months off from training after the Olympics and returned to the gym for nine weeks before taking the floor at Market Square Arena with coach Bela Karolyi.

In the months after the Olympics, people wondered when Retton would return to competition.

“The American Cup appearance kind of quieted everybody down,” Retton said. “People expected me to win [the 1985 American Cup]. And if I didn’t win, oh gosh, they would have talked about me in bad ways. She’s over and she’s down. Whatever. It was hard. I’m glad that I went and had that experience because I proved to myself that I could still handle that pressure.”

The opportunities that came with winning a gold medal — such as dinners with the president and British royalty — proved too taxing for Retton to compete later in 1985 and she eventually announced her retirement in September 1986.

Retton enrolled at the University of Texas that fall, where she met Shannon Kelley, a Longhorns quarterback and her future husband.

Retton had no second thoughts about retiring with the Seoul 1988 Olympics two years away.

“I was ready,” said Retton, who worked the Seoul Games for NBC. “I knew that I was not going to be one of those athletes that’s just hanging onto the sport and couldn’t retire, couldn’t let it go. I wanted people to remember me as a winner and as a champion and not some struggling older athlete that just can’t let it go. That was important to me.”

She wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of attention that came after Los Angeles 1984.

That’s a key difference Retton sees between herself and 2012 Olympic champions Douglas and Aly Raisman, who both turned professional before the London Games.

The gymnasts of this era are more expecting and better equipped to handle the post-Olympic whirlwind.

Douglas and Raisman are favored to make the five-woman Olympic team for Rio, which will be determined in July.

No U.S. woman has made back-to-back Olympic teams since 1996 and 2000. No Olympic all-around champion has returned to compete in the following Games since Nadia Comaneci in 1980.

“Gabby and Aly, I have deep respect for those two,” Retton said. “How difficult the sport is now and to stay in at such a high level, it’s just so demanding.”

VIDEO: Retton, Patterson, Liukin talk Rio 2016 on TODAY

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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Alexandra Trusova, 15, becomes first woman to land three quadruple jumps

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Alexandra Trusova established herself as the world’s leading female figure skater … in her first senior international competition.

Trusova, the 15-year-old, two-time world junior champion from Russia, became the first woman to land three quadruple jumps in one international competition program, posting the world’s highest free skate and total scores on the early season.

Trusova previously landed three quads in the free skate at the Russian Federation’s test skates in early September.

She opened Saturday’s free skate with a quadruple Lutz, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and another quad toe to run away from Japanese Olympian Kaori Sakamoto by 44.27 points. Video is here.

She won a lower-level event in Slovakia with 238.69 points, which would have beaten Japan’s top skater, Rika Kihira, and Olympic bronze medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva by more than 14 points at an event last week in Canada. However, judging panels can be more or less forgiving from event to event.

Still, Trusova established herself as a force going into next month’s Grand Prix season. She will face Kihira and Medvedeva at Skate Canada the last week of October.

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