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

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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.

Alistair Brownlee, after Ironman, leans toward Olympic return

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Alistair Brownlee is already the only triathlete with multiple Olympic titles. In July, he is reportedly leaning toward another impressive feat, to win an Olympic gold medal the summer after completing the Kona Ironman World Championships.

The Brit Brownlee said he is “definitely swinging towards” trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games, according to the Times of London. Brownlee’s manager confirmed the stance while noting that his result in the Ironman Western Australia on Dec. 1 will play into the ultimate decision.

Brownlee previously reportedly said he was “50-50” on going for the Olympics and that he had to decide between focusing on the shorter Olympic distance or the Ironman, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon.

Other Olympic triathletes transitioned to the Ironman and never went back, such as 2008 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno of Germany and two-time U.S. Olympian Sarah True.

Brownlee finished 21st in Kona on Oct. 12 in 8 hours, 25 minutes, 3 seconds, which was 33:50 behind the winner Frodeno.

Brownlee won four half Ironmans between 2017 and 2018 (sandwiched by a hip surgery), then finished second to Frodeno at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship on Sept. 2.

One other triathlete won an Olympic title after completing the Kona Ironman — Austrian Kate Allen, who was seventh in Kona in 2002, then took gold at the 2004 Athens Games.

MORE: 2019 Kona Ironman World Championships Results

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Alberto Salazar appeals doping ban

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The Court of Arbitration for Sport says it has registered an appeal by track coach Alberto Salazar against his ban for doping violations, though a hearing will take several months to prepare.

CAS says Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown appealed against their four-year bans by the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

After a multi-year USADA investigation, Salazar and Brown were found guilty of doping violations linked to the Nike Oregon Project training camp. USADA said Salazar ran experiments with supplements and testosterone, and possessed and trafficked the banned substance.

The case also related to falsified and incomplete medical records that disguised the work.

CAS says Salazar and Brown asked for more time to file “written submissions and evidence,” adding the hearing is “unlikely to take place before March.”

Verdicts typically take at least a further several weeks.

MORE: Mary Cain raises issues from being coached by Salazar

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