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Pioneering women’s boxer Nicola Adams retires due to eye concern

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British boxer Nicola Adams, the first athlete to win a gold medal in Olympic women’s boxing, announced her retirement Wednesday in an open letter to the Yorkshire Evening Post.

“I’m immensely honoured to have represented our country – to win double Olympic gold medals and then the WBO championship belt is a dream come true,” Adams wrote. “But it’s not without taking its toll on my body, and aside from the expected aches and pains I’ve been advised that any further impact to my eye would most likely lead to irreparable damage and permanent vision loss.”

Adams took up women’s boxing in an era in which opponents were hard to find. She was in her mid-20s by the time meaningful European and world competition emerged. By 2011, she was the top flyweight in Europe and a two-time world championship silver medalist.

In 2012, the first-ever Olympic competition, taking place in her home country, was stacked. Her semifinal opponent was Indian legend Mary Kom, who had won five world championships at a slightly lower weight class. Adams had beaten her at the previous world championship and did so again, winning a comfortable 11-6 decision under the points system used at the time. She then knocked down three-time world champion Ren Cancan of China in a dominant 16-7 win to take gold.

In 2016, she won her only world championship and then repeated as Olympic champion, beating Ren again in the semifinals and defeating France’s Sarah Ourahmoune in the final.

Her plaudits in her home country went well beyond the ring. In 2012, The Independent named her the most influential LGBT person in Britain. She was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2013 and elevated to OBE (Officer) in 2016.

She turned professional for a brief but successful career, winning her first five fights and claiming the interim WBO flyweight title before taking a draw in what would be her final fight in September against Mexico’s Maria Salinas.

“Hanging up my gloves was always going to (be) hard, but I have never felt luckier,” Adams wrote. “And I’m so immensely proud of how far the sport has come.”

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Alex Zanardi, auto racer turned Paralympic champion, has 5-hour surgery to rebuild face after crash

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SIENA, Italy (AP) — Italian auto racing champion-turned-Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi underwent a five-hour surgery Monday to reconstruct his face following a crash on his handbike last month.

It was the third major operation that Zanardi has had since he crashed into an oncoming truck near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19 during a relay event.

Dr. Paolo Gennaro of Santa Maria alle Scotte Hospital in Siena said the operation required three-dimensional digital and computerized technology that was “made to measure” for Zanardi.

“The complexity of the case was fairly unique, although this is a type of fracture that we deal with routinely,” Gennaro said in a hospital statement.

After the surgery, Zanardi was returned to the intensive care unit in a medically induced coma.

“His condition remains stable in terms of his cardio-respiratory status and grave in terms of his neurological status,” the hospital medical bulletin read.

The 53-year-old Zanardi, who lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago, has been on a ventilator since the crash.

Zanardi suffered serious facial and cranial trauma, and doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

Zanardi won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.

Last month, Pope Francis penned a handwritten letter of encouragement assuring Zanardi and his family of his prayers. The pope praised Zanardi as an example of strength amid adversity.

Shawn Johnson East shares struggles with body image, prescription drugs

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Shawn Johnson East, a 2008 Olympic gymnastics champion, detailed past struggles with body image and prescription drugs and reflected on her eating disorder as an elite athlete, to show there is hope to others in difficult situations.

“It all started with pregnancy and having my daughter,” East, who had daughter Drew in October, said on TODAY on Monday. “I had so many people asking me questions about how did pregnancy affect you mentally and how did you get your body back after having your daughter. I couldn’t answer that without giving a greater and a larger story.”

East first went public about her undiagnosed teenage eating disorders in 2015, three years after retiring from the sport. She said she limited herself to 700 calories per day and didn’t tell her parents.

In a June YouTube video, Johnson said she also binged and purged, including while dating future husband Andrew in the mid-2010s. And that she had depression and anxiety in 2011, when she returned to competition for the first time since the Beijing Games.

“I thought it would fix all of my problems,” East said of returning to gymnastics for a 2012 Olympic bid.

When East won “Dancing with the Stars” in 2009, she “hit a very low spot” going through puberty on national TV. She said she gained 15 pounds after the 2008 Olympics and started taking medications and drugs “to look like I did at the Olympics.” It included fad diets, diuretics and a three-week stretch of eating nothing but raw vegetables.

“Most pain of my entire life because I couldn’t digest anything,” she said.

At some point in 2011, East began feeling burned out. She was back to eating too few calories and overtraining. An unnamed USA Gymnastics doctor prescribed her Adderall “to lose more weight, have more energy and be more successful in gymnastics.” She took “heavy doses.”

“It helped my performances, but there were massive consequences to it,” she said. “I continued to compete into 2012, where I just started to get depressed.

“I was overdosing on Adderall. I was overdosing on any medication that wouldn’t be caught by USADA.”

Adderall was a banned substance in competition without a therapeutic use exemption, but was legal outside of competition.

“I was so controlled by other people’s opinions that I wouldn’t live up to that Olympic standard that I did anything to get it back and I could never have it back,” East said. “I didn’t learn that until later on.”

East’s mental hurdles re-emerged when she had a miscarriage in 2017. She blamed herself, believing her unhealthy lifestyle in the past was a contributor.

“Our natural inclination is to say, what did I do? And what did I do wrong?” she said. “It haunted me. I felt like I had sacrificed everything for an Olympic medal to not actually get the dream I had wanted my entire life [to have a child].”

With the help of a nutritionist and therapist and her husband, she conquered the demons through her 2019 pregnancy and childbirth.

“Having gone through a whole pregnancy and knowing that I felt confident through the whole thing, I feel like I’ve climbed Everest,” she said.

MORE: Why Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson went 8 years without talking

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