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Oksana Chusovitina remains gymnastics medal contender at 41

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BERGISCH-GLADBACH, Germany (AP) — In the retro-looking gym that serves as the talent-honing center for Germany’s potential Olympian gymnasts, girls aged six and seven in leotards execute their somersaults and back flips under watchful trainers.

From a distance, it is difficult to distinguish Oksana Chusovitina from the kids. However, she has a son who is about three times the age of the young aspiring gymnasts.

Only when she approaches, do features on her small frame reveal differences: The muscles hardened by years of top-level competition, and the lines around the face tell of experience.

Chusovitina will compete at her seventh Olympics when she goes to Rio de Janeiro, becoming the oldest Olympic female gymnast in history at age 41.

“I am feeling good,” she said, speaking German in an interview with The Associated Press. “On the podium, everyone is the same whether you are 40 or 16. You have to go out and do your routine and your jumps.

“But it’s a pity there are no points for age,” she added, breaking into an easy smile.

Chusovitina, back representing her native Uzbekistan, is an anachronism in an age when gymnasts enter major competitions at 16, and most are teenagers. A legal limit was imposed to prevent ever younger girls coming to competitions.

Her dedication and love of the sport keep her going, she said.

“I have no pain, no problems. The toughest for me is to wait until the next training,” Chusovitina said.

As the Olympics approach, she trains two, three hours a day, or as she puts it, “not so much.”

About 1.50-meters (five-feet) tall and weighing about 43 kilograms (95 pounds), Chusovitina looks very fit. She cannot really pinpoint the reason for her competitive longevity.

“I don’t know how I stay fit, I think you have to ask my mother,” she said, suggesting good genes.

“I love this sport, I love training, I am always eager to train,” Chusovitina said.

Chusovitina’s best chance for a medal in Rio is the vault, in which she won a silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, then competing for Germany. She has 10 medals in the vault at world championships, plus one in the floor.

But she is reluctant to speak about a podium finish in Rio.

“I don’t want to talk about the podium or the medals. I first want to prepare in the time before the games, fly to Brazil, and be healthy,” she said.

Speaking of which, Chusovitina said she was not worried about the Zika virus even though some top male golfers, notably, have pulled out of the Olympics because of fears of getting infected.

“I am not flying to Brazil to get pregnant,” she said, laughing loudly.

As she jumped onto the beam for a few moves, her son Alisher walked into the gym to wait for her to finish training.

Alisher is the reason Chusovitina mostly lives and trains in Germany. She is married to Uzbekistan’s Olympic wrestler, Bakhodir Kuranov, and their son was born in 1999.

In 2002, Alisher was diagnosed with leukemia. Unable to get treatment for her son or to pay for it, Chusovitina came to Germany at the invitation of a club in Cologne. A fundraising campaign and money she earned in competitions paid for Alisher’s treatment, and he is fully recovered. Approaching his 17th birthday, Alisher is more interested in basketball than in gymnastics.

During Alisher’s treatment, Chusovitina competed for Germany, winning silver in the vault in Beijing and a pair of world championship medals.

Her international career began for the Soviet Union with gold medals in the team event and the floor, and silver in the vault, at the 1991 worlds in Indianapolis.

The next year, she earned a team gold at the Barcelona Olympics, now for the Unified Team, one of the successor teams of the Soviet Union.

Her German manager, Michael Fabig, thinks Chusovitina may not be through with the Olympics after Rio.

“I don’t think she’ll ever retire,” he said with an I-give-up shrug of his shoulders.

MORE: Analyzing the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team

Hayato Sakamoto, Japanese baseball MVP, tests positive for coronavirus

Hayato Sakamoto
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Hayato Sakamoto, an MVP of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league, is one of two players from the Yomiuri Giants to test positive for the coronavirus, according to several Japanese media reports.

Sakamoto, a 31-year-old shortstop, and catcher Takumi Oshiro tested positive ahead of the NPB’s planned June 19 start to the season that had been delayed to the coronavirus.

The tests showed traces of the coronavirus, according to Kyodo News.

The Giants canceled Wednesday’s practice game with the Seibu Lions to limit the spread of the virus.

Sakamoto is the reigning Central League MVP. He has been called the Derek Jeter of Japan for playing the same position as the Yankee great and being the veteran captain of Japan’s equivalent club, the Giants, which own a record 22 Japan Series titles.

Sakamoto, who played in the last two World Baseball Classics, has been considered a lock for Japan’s baseball team at the Tokyo Games in 2021 as the most well known active player who hasn’t left for Major League Baseball. MLB is not expected to allow its top players to participate in the Olympics, which would keep the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Masahiro Tanaka off the Olympic roster.

The sport returns to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008, though it is not on the 2024 Olympic program nor guaranteed a place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Japan reached the semifinals of all five Olympic baseball tournaments when the sport was previously on the medal program but never took gold.

In a 2018 survey, Sakamoto was ranked as Japan’s eighth-most popular athlete across all sports, foreign or domestic, active or retired.

Sky Brown, 11-year-old Olympic skateboard hopeful, suffers serious injuries in fall

Sky Brown Skateboard Fall
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Sky Brown, an 11-year-old British Olympic skateboarding hopeful, recently suffered her worst fall, requiring surgery, she said in a video posted from a hospital bed.

Brown suffered skull fractures and broke her left wrist and hand and was at first unresponsive upon arrival to a hospital, according to the BBC, which quoted her father.

Video of the fall from a skateboarding ramp was posted on her social media. She appeared to be wearing a helmet in the video.

“I don’t usually post my falls or talk about them because I want people to see the fun in what I do,” Brown said. “But this was my worst fall, and I just want everyone to know that, it’s OK, don’t worry. I’m OK. It’s OK to fall sometimes. I’m just going to get back up and push even harder. I know there’s a lot of things going on in the world right now. I want everyone to know that whatever we do, we’ve just go to do it with love and happiness.”

Brown is the 2019 World bronze medalist in the new Olympic sport’s park discipline.

Later Tuesday, Brown reposted an Instagram post from what appeared to be her father’s account. The caption of that post said Brown fell 15 feet to flat concrete.

“I held her in my arms and she bled helplessly moaning in and out of consciousness waiting for the helicopter to take her to the Hospital,” the caption read. “We spent the night sick and terrified not knowing if Sky was going to make it through the night, as the ICU team tried to get her conscious and kept her alive.

“4 days later Sky sits across from me with her full memory back, smiling, watching TikTok while Eating her favorite bad snacks.”

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Last week the worst thing I could ever ever imagined happened to @skybrown . She fell about 15ft off the side of a vert ramp to flat concrete. I held her in my arms and she bled helplessly moaning in and out of consciousness waiting for the helicopter to take her to the Hospital. We spent the night sick and terrified not knowing if Sky was going to make it through the night, as the ICU team tried to get her conscious and kept her alive. We prayed and begged God to give Sky another chance. Word came back while she was still unconscious, multiple fractures to her skull, a broken left arm, which she broke into pieces because she used it to break her fall, broken right fingers and lacerations to her heart and lungs. 4 days later Sky sits across from me with her full memory back, smiling, watching TikTok while Eating her favorite bad snacks. More importantly her Doctors and the trauma team say it’s a miracle how well she is dealing with the pain and recovering incredibly fast. They said it’s shocking and believe it’s because of her grit, positivity and attitude. Skys brother @oceanbrown has been so brave. He saw his sister fall to the ground lying in a pool of blood and was screaming in tears that night outside of the hospital. He has still not allowed into the hospital to see her. They miss each-other dearly, but no siblings are allowed to enter the hospital because of coronavirus. They’ve been spending hours a day on FaceTime with each other making funny faces to one another in fits of giggles and laughter. Sky promises Ocean daily that she will make a fast recovery so they can be together again. Sky is constantly joking and smiling and it’s hurts my heart to even imagine for a second a world without Sky; extremely thankful that I don’t have to. Thank you to the heroes that are the doctors, nurses and hospital staff that have tirelessly worked on her and helped her get to this point.

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