U.S. men’s gymnastics stars enter Olympic Trials as underdogs

Danell Leyva
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Danell Leyva and John Orozco were anchors of the U.S. men’s gymnastics team four years ago. They’re outliers going into the Olympic Trials this week.

Leyva and Orozco stand 16th and 10th in the all-around standings after the P&G Championships three weeks ago, the first of two Olympic selection meets. It has been 64 years since more than two U.S. men’s gymnasts competed in back-to-back Games.

That streak will endure if Leyva and Orozco don’t perform better in St. Louis on Thursday and Saturday (broadcast schedule here).

The five-man Olympic team will be named on Sunday.

One man appears a lock at this point — London Olympian Sam Mikulak, who won his fourth straight U.S. all-around title at the P&G Championships.

His supporting cast is still to be determined by a selection committee this weekend, taking into account results from the P&G Championships and Olympic Trials, among other discretionary criteria.

Chris Brooks, a 2012 Olympic alternate, and veteran Olympian and Worlds team member Jacob Dalton were second and third in the all-around at the P&G Championships.

Paul Ruggeri III, a three-time Worlds alternate who made his Worlds debut in 2015, tied for eighth in the all-around at P&Gs but goes into the Olympic Trials with added value, ranked in the top three on three of the six events.

Donnell Whittenburg, the only American to make both of the last two World Championships all-around finals, led the all-around halfway through the P&G Championships. But he fell to a tie for fifth after 12 routines in Hartford three weeks ago.

Much farther behind were Leyva and Orozco, who struggled not just in Hartford but throughout this Olympic cycle.

Leyva, a 24-year-old Miami native and the 2012 Olympic all-around bronze medalist, has finished no higher than fifth in the all-around at the last four P&G Championships.

He competed in Hartford with his left leg fully wrapped after one of his family’s American bulldogs bit him multiple times for the second time in four years earlier this spring.

Leyva also showed up in Hartford without his lucky towel, the famous blue one with stars, that he toted at every gymnastics meet since 2007. That was stolen in February.

“I don’t mind being the underdog,” Leyva said after finishing 16th in Hartford, where he fell off the high bar, went out of bounds on floor exercise and mangled a pommel horse dismount. “I wasn’t trying to be perfect here. You’ve got to be perfect in Rio.”

Orozco, a 23-year-old from the Bronx and the 2012 U.S. all-around champion, suffered a torn left ACL and associated meniscus damage in a post-Olympic USA Gymnastics tour in October 2012.

He rebounded to finish second in the all-around at the 2014 P&G Championships and looked set to be a 2016 Olympic team favorite.

But then June 15, 2015 happened. Orozco tore his right Achilles for the second time in five years and was told by a doctor he would be out about one year.

He cut that estimate in half, which is why he wasn’t worried about trailing going into this week’s Olympic Trials. Rather, Orozco felt fortunate to be healthy enough to compete in all six events in Hartford.

“I honestly don’t feel any pressure at all [about my Olympic team chances],” Orozco said after the P&G Championships, where he fell off the pommel horse on the first day. “I’m still not there, which is OK, because at trials is where I want to peak.”

MORE: Full NBC Olympic trials broadcast schedule

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Paul Ruggeri III is the only man ranked in the top three of three of six events after the P&G Championships. Both Ruggeri and Jacob Dalton are ranked in the top three of three of six events.

Germany goes 1-2 at bobsled worlds; Kaillie Humphries breaks medals record

Kim Kalicki
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Kim Kalicki and Lisa Buckwitz gave Germany a one-two in the world bobsled championships two-woman event, while American Kaillie Humphries earned bronze to break the career medals record.

Kalicki, who was fourth at last year’s Olympics and leads this season’s World Cup standings, edged Buckwitz by five hundredths of a second combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Humphries, with push athlete Kaysha Love, was 51 hundredths behind.

Olympic champion Laura Nolte was in third place after two runs but crashed in the third run.

Humphries, 37 and a three-time Olympic champion between two-woman and monobob, earned her eighth world championships medal in the two-woman event. That broke her tie for the record of seven with retired German Sandra Kiriasis. Humphries is also the most decorated woman in world championships monobob, taking gold and silver in the two times it has been contested.

Humphries rolled her ankle after the first day of last week’s monobob, plus took months off training in the offseason while also doing two rounds of IVF.

“I chose to continue the IVF journey through the season which included a Lupron Depot shot the day before this race began,” she posted after her monobob silver last weekend. “My weight and body fluctuating all year with hormones, it was a battle to find my normal while competing again. I’m happy with this result, I came into it wanting a podium and we achieved it as a team.”

Love, who was seventh with Humphries in the Olympic two-woman event, began her transition to become a driver after the Games.

Worlds finish Sunday with the final two runs of the four-man event.

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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.