Key for Team USA men’s gymnastics? Sticky glue and sticky pad quotes

Sam Mikulak
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RIO DE JANEIRO – Before the U.S. men’s gymnastics team departed for the Olympics, staff athletic trainer Jamie Broz handed captain Chris Brooks a care package.

It included super glue (for two reasons), a fruit-and-nut mix and a sticky pad of 30 inspirational quotes. The quotes, Broz said, were for Brooks to read to the team, one per day, before they leave the Olympic Village for the gymnastics arena.

Broz happened to be passing by the gymnasts’ room early Tuesday when she heard Brooks “shout” the quote.

Then they all stepped into an elevator and embarked for team qualifying on the first day of the Games.

“They love it,” Broz said of the motivational tool. “It kind of gets them out the door.”

WATCH: Saturday’s men’s gymnastics competition

So what was Tuesday’s quote?

“I was obviously trying to get into my zone, but it was something about believing,” 2012 Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva said. “[Brooks] is the only one who can remember it.”

Ok. Captain?

“I don’t remember,” Brooks said, leading a journalist to wonder if he actually followed Broz’s instructions. “No, I read it.”

Three-time U.S. all-around champion Sam Mikulak had their backs.

“It was something about, you have the ability to make it happen, so go out there and make it happen,” he said. “Really believe in yourself.”

The Americans looked full of self-belief – and stronger than medal favorites Japan and Great Britain – in their first four of six rotations in qualifying on Saturday.

Then they made a mess of pommel horse, as they always seem to do. But they still had the highest qualifying score with the third and final subdivision of teams to go, a group that includes two-time defending Olympic champion China.

The U.S. easily qualified for Monday’s eight-team final in a way that was reminiscent of the 2012 Olympics.

A Rio team medal, which seemed unlikely after a fifth-place finish at the 2015 World Championships, is now a little more realistic. But any optimism must be cautioned.

The U.S. men had the highest qualifying score four years ago – where Japan also struggled – but the Americans plummeted to fifth in the final with pommel horse being the Achilles’ heel.

There is also a lingering wonder that favorites Japan and China may not always show their best gymnastics in qualifying. Japan was shockingly behind Netherlands and France in qualifying.

In 2012, China was sixth and Japan was fifth in qualifying. Then they went one-two in the final for a second straight Olympics.

WATCH: All gymnastics events live at NBCOlympics.com

“They’re saving themselves for the finals,” U.S. and University of Oklahoma coach Mark Williams said. “From my experience as a college coach, you want to be good the first day [in qualifying], and you want to be better the second day [in the final]. But you don’t want to have to be scrambling to get better the second day. So I feel like we did exactly what we needed to do. We still have some room to improve.”

So, is this year’s U.S. team better equipped to handle this situation than the London group?

“We have more experience, we know what to expect,” said Jake Dalton, one of three Olympic rookies from that 2012 team who are on the five-man Rio squad. “We’re not going to get too hyped up. Last time, I think, it was awesome, we were excited, we went into finals super hyped and then we had mistakes.”

Brooks is without a doubt the most excitable, fist-pumping, chest-beating member of the team (not counting Leyva’s animated father, of course). And he has reason to be. He’s making an Olympic debut at age 29. Nobody else on the team is older than 25.

Even though Dalton is stressing calm, Brooks’ demeanor is what drew Broz to assemble the items in the care package.

“Chris is the team captain, and he’s inspirational to everybody,” she said. “When he was announced team captain, I thought, give them all the tools they need. That’s kind of my job.”

The super glue, distributed not just to Brooks but also to the rest of the team, serves two purposes. Gymnasts actually use it to cover ripped-up skin. Broz also wanted it to symbolize how each of the five is part of a glue that keeps the team together.

Broz has been with USA Gymnastics for nearly 20 years. And this is the first time she has done this with a men’s team.

What makes this one so special? It’s their differences, Broz said.

There are Brooks and Alex Naddour at their first Games after traveling to London in 2012 as alternates.

There are Dalton and Mikulak, two 2012 Olympians who misses the 2015 Worlds due to injuries.

And there’s Leyva, who didn’t make this team outright but was called up after John Orozco tore his left ACL again in July.

“They have that mixture that, if you add all the ingredients in,” Broz said, “they’re going to be something big.”

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
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British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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