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Pollen causes greatest mountain biker in history to retire

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France’s Julien Absalon, the most decorated mountain biker in history and the only one with two Olympic titles, is retiring at age 37 in large part due to a pollen allergy, according to L’Equipe.

“I’ve been suffering from allergies to pollen in the south of France for the past three years, mostly at the start of the season,” Absalon said, according to an Agence France-Presse translation. “The doctor told me it would only get worse.”

Regarding taking medication to combat the allergy, possibly requesting a therapeutic use exemption for otherwise prohibited substances, Absalon said, “I don’t like to take too many medicines,” according to the report.

Absalon earned Olympic gold in 2004 (when his wife fainted from the heat at the race) and 2008 (dominating to win the two-hour event by more than one minute). He abandoned after a first-lap puncture in 2012, then ended his Olympic career in eighth place in Rio.

Absalon also won four straight world titles from 2004 through 2007, plus a fifth in 2014. He tacked on a seventh World Cup season title in 2016. Absalon said before the Rio Games he would retire that year, but he continued competing.

Absalon dropped out of the top five in the World Cup overall standings last season and was 41st in the only event so far this year.

Absalon said he will devote his time to managing a professional cycling team that he launched earlier this season, according to AFP.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Yelena Shushunova, 1988 Olympic all-around champion, dies at 49

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Yelena Shushunova, the 1988 Olympic all-around champion, died Thursday at age 49, according to Russia’s gymnastics federation.

Shushunova died of complications from pneumonia, a Russia gymnastics federation official said, according to TASS.

Shushunova earned two golds, a silver and a bronze at the Seoul 1988 Games at age 19. She beat Romanian Daniela Silivas by .025 of a point in the all-around, needing and scoring a 10 on her final apparatus on vault.

Shushunova also earned 11 medals between the 1985 and 1987 World Championships in one of the most impressive Olympic cycles for a gymnast.

She made the Soviet national team in time for the 1984 Olympics, but the nation boycotted the Los Angeles Games.

Simone Biles details lip tattoo

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BOSTON — If you thought Simone Biles looked like nothing had changed in her comeback meet, think again.

What you won’t see on camera on the U.S. Gymnastics Championships this week is Biles’ new tattoo — on the inside of her bottom lip.

“It just says XO,” she said. “It’s a little faded. I need to get it touched up. … I’ve always wanted a lip tat, and I heard it didn’t hurt. So I went and got one.”

It was Biles’ second tattoo. She revealed in March the popular Olympic rings ink on her right forearm.

Biles said there’s a story that explains why the lip tattoo has faded, but she can’t share it.

“It has something to do with [turning 21],” she said, laughing. Biles, who turned 21 in March, paused, then added one last line.

“I’m a good child!”

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