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Steele Johnson returns to diving after difficult year out of competition

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When Olympic silver medalist Steele Johnson mounts the 10-meter platform on Tuesday and dives off the equivalent of a three-story building, he will be doing so in competition for the first time in nearly a year and following two foot surgeries.

“I don’t have much expectations for this week,” he said.

Johnson promises not to look at his scores during the U.S. Diving Championships, which will determine the team for July’s world championships. He vows not to watch his competitors.

“I perform best when I have no idea where I’m at,” Johnson said, noting he didn’t know whether he and David Boudia were in medal contention in the Rio Olympic synchronized platform until their last dive. “I perform my worst when I’m really thinking about the scores I need to get to pass someone else, or I’m worrying about what the other divers are going.”

These nationals (TV schedule here) will be familiar and foreign for Johnson, who recently decided to forego his last season at Purdue to turn professional. This week’s meet is in Indianapolis, just an hour’s drive down Interstate 65 from West Lafayette.

But Johnson will not be competing with Boudia in Tuesday’s synchro platform. Boudia, a four-time Olympic medalist, switched to the springboard after a February 2018 concussion. Johnson hopes to reunite with Boudia in synchro springboard for a Tokyo 2020 run, but he’s not ready to add that event yet.

Johnson feels fortunate to be competing at all. In February 2015, a stress fracture was found in his right foot. The pain was manageable, so he put off potential surgery. By September 2018, he would go under the knife, finding a new, more serious stress fracture had developed.

Four months after the surgery, Johnson still couldn’t put any weight on the foot. It had healed completely, but inserted screws were causing inflammation. The screws were removed 15 weeks ago in a follow-up procedure. Johnson was forced to miss all of what would have been his final NCAA campaign.

“It turned out to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Johnson, who at 12 years old ripped his head in half hitting the platform on a reverse three-and-a-half somersault, which led to some memory problems. “I’ve never had something so adverse … just to be able to stand on my feet again.”

He still can’t run on the foot, but he’s been diving his competition list for two weeks and with synchro partner Ben Bramley for a week and a half.

“Not the most time on my feet so far,” Johnson said, “but that being said, back on 10-meter and into competition form a lot quicker than anticipated.”

Johnson believes he can contend for one of two individual platform spots on the world team, decided Friday and Sunday, even though he has less difficult dives than the favorites.

“The Olympics aren’t this year, so my goal was, if I can just compete at this nationals, see where the rest of the field was at, see what I need to work on, that would be good enough for me,” he said.

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VIDEO: Relive Greg Louganis diving board accident on 30th anniversary

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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MORE: World Wrestling Championships TV Schedule

Alexandra Trusova, 15, becomes first woman to land three quadruple jumps

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Alexandra Trusova established herself as the world’s leading female figure skater … in her first senior international competition.

Trusova, the 15-year-old, two-time world junior champion from Russia, became the first woman to land three quadruple jumps in one international competition program, posting the world’s highest free skate and total scores on the early season.

Trusova previously landed three quads in the free skate at the Russian Federation’s test skates in early September.

She opened Saturday’s free skate with a quadruple Lutz, a quadruple toe loop-triple toe combination and another quad toe to run away from Japanese Olympian Kaori Sakamoto by 44.27 points. Video is here.

She won a lower-level event in Slovakia with 238.69 points, which would have beaten Japan’s top skater, Rika Kihira, and Olympic bronze medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva by more than 14 points at an event last week in Canada. However, judging panels can be more or less forgiving from event to event.

Still, Trusova established herself as a force going into next month’s Grand Prix season. She will face Kihira and Medvedeva at Skate Canada the last week of October.

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MORE: 2019 Senior Grand Prix assignments