Jordan Burroughs leads U.S. wrestlers clinching Olympic berths

Leave a comment

Jordan Burroughs planned a special celebration after making his second Olympic team on Sunday night.

“A 24-hour doughnut place,” he said after throwing his singlet into the crowd. “I might go at like 3 a.m.”

Then it’ll be back to work.

The London gold medalist swept Andrew Howe in the best-of-three finals in the freestyle 74kg division at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Iowa City on Sunday night, earning his spot in Rio in August.

Then he darted into the Carver-Hawkeye Arena stands to find his pregnant wife, Lauren, and 1-year-old son, Beacon. Lauren gave her husband a letter before Sunday’s match telling him he was destined for greatness.

“I’m just happy to be going to Rio,” Burroughs said while holding Beacon on NBC Sports Live Extra. “I’ve got to get some mosquito repellent.”

Burroughs is now 124-2 in senior international competition. He’s a different wrestler, a different man, since winning his maiden World title in 2011.

“I was single [in 2011], I was living in an apartment, I had a busted headlight on a Chevy Impala,” he joked.

In Rio, Burroughs can become the third U.S. wrestler to win back-to-back Olympic titles, joining George Mehnert (1904, 1908) and John Smith (1988, 1992).

Burroughs’ long-stated goal is to reach Smith’s American record of six combined Olympic and World titles. The 27-year-old can notch No. 5 on Aug. 19.

“I really look up to the trailblazers,” Burroughs told Smith on Live Extra. “For a lot of my career, I’ve been able to say I’ve been chasing John Smith.”

MORE: List of U.S. athletes qualified for Rio Olympics

Burroughs was joined by five more wrestlers who clinched U.S. Olympic berths Sunday, all first-time Olympians.

“Making the team for a lot of guys is an amazing feat, but for me is customary,” Burroughs said.

He won’t be joined by the other 2012 U.S. Olympic champion, Jake Varner, who lost to reigning World champion Kyle Snyder in the freestyle 97kg finals.

Snyder, 20 and the youngest American to win a World title, will become the first reigning NCAA champion to wrestle on a U.S. Olympic team since 1976. He will also become the youngest American to wrestle freestyle at the Olympics since 1976.

“The Olympics are just a little bit different, everybody knows that,” Snyder said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “All the eyes are on you, and that’s what I like.”

Daniel Dennis is going to the Olympics after giving up the sport and living in a pickup truck three years ago. Dennis upset two-time World team member Tony Ramos in a battle of former Iowa Hawkeyes in the freestyle 57kg finals.

“I’ve got an extra bedroom at my place,” Burroughs joked after learning of Dennis’ background. “He’s going to have to sleep in the same room as my son, Beacon, though.”

Adeline Gray, a two-time reigning World champion in 75kg, will be favored to become the first U.S. woman to take an Olympic title in August. She made quick work of Victoria Francis with tech falls less than halfway through both matches.

Gray is on a 37-match winning streak dating to July 2014.

“It’s awesome to know that I have a lot of titles, and I know I am a great wrestler, but there’s something about being special in that Olympic year, that the world now knows that I’m special,” a teary Gray, who cried for 30 minutes after losing in the 2012 trials finals, said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “I get to call myself an Olympian forever, and it’s an amazing feeling.”

Andy Bisek, whose World bronze medals the last two years are the U.S.’ only Greco-Roman Olympic or World medals since 2009, swept Geordan Speiller in the 75kg division.

“Being on the podium two years in a row shows me that I belong,” Bisek said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “There’s no reason I’m not at the top in Rio.”

The first to earn a Rio spot Sunday night was Robby Smith, who swept Adam Coon in the Greco-Roman 130kg finals. The bearded, tattooed Smith then bawled in an NBC Sports Live Extra interview after making his first Olympic team.

Smith made the last three World Championships teams, losing a bronze-medal match last year, and placed third at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

“I love to throw guys on their head,” Smith said. “That’s what I do.”

Also Sunday, J’Den Cox won the U.S. Olympic Trials one month after winning an NCAA title. Cox, a University of Missouri junior, won the freestyle 86kg finals over Kyle Dake, who in 2013 became the first wrestler to win NCAA titles in four different weight classes.

Cox isn’t qualified for Rio yet. He can do so at an international tournament later this spring.

World champion Helen Maroulis and Haley Augello won the women’s 53kg and 48kg divisions, respectively, and can clinch Olympic berths at an international tournament later this spring.

On Saturday night, three 2012 Olympians became the first members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic wrestling team.

MORE: First American born in 2000s to make Olympic team

USOC fires official as Larry Nassar report released

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. Olympic Committee fired chief of sport performance Alan Ashley in the wake of an independent report released Monday that said neither he nor former CEO Scott Blackmun elevated concerns about the Larry Nassar sexual abuse allegations when they were first reported to them.

The 233-page independent report detailed an overall lack of response when the USOC leaders first heard about the Nassar allegations from the then-president of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny.

Blackmun resigned in February because of health concerns.

The report says the USOC took no action between first hearing of the allegations in July 2015 and September 2016, when the Indianapolis Star published an account of Nassar’s sex abuse. The report concludes that lack of action allowed Nassar to abuse dozens more girls over the 14 months of silence.

Nassar is serving decades in prison on charges of child pornography and for molesting young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment; many of his accusers testified in heart-wrenching detail at his sentencing hearing.

Though Ashley was the only one to get fired in the immediate aftermath of its release, the report paints a harsh picture of leadership of the entire U.S. Olympic movement, from the offices of the USOC to what it portrays as an essentially rogue, unchecked operation at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas — the training center run by Bela and Martha Karolyi where some of the abuse occurred.

The report concludes that one of Penny’s key objectives was to keep the allegations under wraps, to avoid “sending shockwaves through the community,” as he said in a conversation with an FBI agent.

Meanwhile, Penny is portrayed as repeatedly trying to get the FBI to investigate Nassar, but the report concludes “the investigation appears to have languished … for over seven months” in the FBI’s Detroit office. USAG took the allegations to the FBI’s Los Angeles office, but not until the newspaper report came out did that office take action.

The report says Penny notified Blackmun and Ashley that Nassar had retired in September 2015, but that both leaders had deleted the email, which referenced Nassar by name.

The report details the USOC’s relationships with the sports organizations it oversees as too deferential and not involved enough in policymaking to ensure athlete safety.

“In this governance model, the USOC exerted its broad statutory authority and monetary influence over individual sports primarily for the purpose of encouraging success at the Olympic Games, effectively outsourcing any decisions regarding on-the-ground child-protective practices to the NGBs,” the report states.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Olympic medalist no longer on USA Gymnastics suspended list

U.S. figure skating rankings going into national championships

AP
Leave a comment

A discipline-by-discipline look at U.S. figure skaters’ best season scores with no more top-level events until the U.S. Championships from Jan. 24-27 in Detroit …

Men
1. Nathan Chen — 282.42
2. Chen — 280.57
3. Chen — 271.58
4. Jason Brown — 263.42
5. Brown — 256.33
6. Brown — 234.97
7. Vincent Zhou — 234.25
8. Brown — 233.23
9. Zhou — 225.75
10. Camden Pulkinen — 223.95

Chen is on his way to a third straight national title, while Brown has been a pleasant surprise this fall after changing coaches in the offseason. The Sochi Olympian and 2015 U.S. champion even beat Chen in one program on the Grand Prix Series. Zhou, after placing sixth in PyeongChang, has struggled with under-rotations on jumps but is still in the driver’s seat for one of three world championships spots.

Women
1. Bradie Tennell — 206.41
2. Tennell — 202.41
3. Ting Cui — 199.79
4. Mariah Bell — 198.96
5. Tennell — 197.78
6. Bell — 196.60
7. Tennell — 192.89
8. Bell — 190.25
9. Bell — 188.97
10. Ashley Lin — 181.21

Two world team spots for the women. Tennell and Bell are the top returning veterans this season, but remember that 2017 U.S. champion Karen Chen has yet to compete with a foot injury. Then there are Ting, 16, and Alysa Liu, a 13-year-old who isn’t age eligible for junior or senior worlds but can compete in the senior division at nationals. Liu landed triple Axels in both programs at sectionals last month, scoring 212.97 points (though domestic scores are often inflated and not comparable with international scores).

Ice Dance
1. Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue — 205. 35
2. Hubbell/Donohue — 200.82
3. Hubbell/Donohue — 200.76
4. Hubbell/Donohue — 197.42
5. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker — 184.63
6. Hawayek/Baker — 184.04
7. Hawayek/Baker — 181.47
8. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons — 180.95
9. Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter — 180.57
10. Christina Carreira/Anthony Ponomarenko — 180.22

The only active U.S. couple to beat Hubbell and Donohue in direct competition is Madison Chock and Evan Bates, but the two-time world medalists missed the entire fall season due to Chock’s ankle surgery. With Olympic bronze medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani sitting out this season and maybe done competing altogether, Hubbell and Donohue will be clear favorites to repeat as national champions.

Three U.S. couples will go to worlds. Hawayek and Baker, after qualifying for their first Grand Prix Final, are primed to go back after placing 10th last season. The status of Chock and Bates will largely determine who rounds out the world team.

Pairs
1. Tarah Kayne/Danny O’Shea — 191.43

2. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim — 190.49
3. Knierim/Knierim — 182.84
4. Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc — 181.56
5. Kayne/O’Shea — 177.69
6. Knierim/Knierim — 177.22
7. Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay — 176.44
8. Cain/LeDuc — 175.06
9. Stellato/Bartholomay — 174.91
10. Stellato/Bartholomay — 174.78

Kayne and O’Shea, who likely would have made the Olympic team if the U.S. qualified more than one pair for PyeongChang, surprised by posting that 191 at the last event of the Grand Prix Series three weeks ago. The U.S. has just one pair at worlds this season for the first time since 1984 and last earned a medal in 2002. Kayne and O’Shea and the Knierims are ranked Nos. 9 and 10 in the world this season. Cain is recovering after falling head-first on the ice from a botched lift on Friday night.

VIDEO: Adam Rippon appears on ‘Will & Grace’

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!