David Boudia
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What the U.S. Olympic diving team could look like in 2021

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The last full week of April was supposed to provide clarity for the Olympic diving competition. The FINA World Cup, the last Olympic qualifier, was scheduled to take place at the Olympic host city of Tokyo.

Instead, we’re left with unfinished business. The last Olympic quota spots have yet to be doled out. The U.S. Olympic Trials, originally set for June in Indianapolis, are postponed indefinitely. China’s bid to sweep all of the Olympic diving golds for the first time — denied until 2021.

“This year delay could look a lot better for a lot of the challengers than possibly some of the reigning Chinese,” NBC Olympics analyst Cynthia Potter said. “I just wonder about the veterans from China. [Some of them] have injuries, too. Some of them are worn out.

“I think there are a lot of those people returning [from China] that were maybe looking forward either to not diving the event that they were diving at the Olympics after this summer or retiring altogether.”

Now they all get an extra 12 months. For U.S. divers, it could be a boon once they are able to return to normal training.

It’s more time for David Boudia, the four-time Olympic medalist, to hone his transition from the platform to the springboard. More time for Steele Johnson, who missed nearly a year of competition with two foot surgeries, to decide whether to compete on the platform, springboard or both. More time for synchronized teams to get in sync.

Potter went through where things stand for U.S. Olympic spots in each of the four disciplines:

Men’s Springboard — U.S. qualified two Olympic spots
Boudia won the 2019 U.S. title and placed fifth at the world championships in his first full year after moving off the platform. It was the best finish for the U.S. men’s program at worlds.

“If David’s timing, his strength, his rhythm, all that and that he feels pretty good enough to do these more difficult dives, I don’t see that anybody can beat him if that all comes together,” Potter said.

Michael Hixon is the most experienced U.S. springboard diver on the top level, having placed 10th at the Rio Olympics while making the last three world championships teams. Right in the mix with Boudia and Hixon is Andrew Copabianco, a 20-year-old NCAA champion from Indiana who trains with Hixon. Wild cards: Briadam Herrera, a 1m springboard world team member known for his difficulty, and Johnson, should he enter.

Men’s Platform — U.S. qualified two Olympic spots
David Dinsmore appears the likeliest U.S. Olympic rookie in 2021. Since taking third at the 2016 Olympic Trials, Dinsmore has four wins and a runner-up in national-level meets. His sixth-place finish at the 2017 Worlds was the best individual result for a U.S. man at the meet.

I think international judges like his diving,” Potter said. “He doesn’t have a lot of real obvious flaws.”

Johnson, a Rio Olympian on the platform, returned from injury to place third and fourth at national championships last year. He has the versatility to enter all four events at trials, but he may prioritize the springboard given the medal potential in the synchro event with Boudia. Other hopefuls: Brandon Loschiavo, who outscored Dinsmore in the finals at 2019 Nationals, and Jordan Windle, who Potter said has been on fire since overcoming an injury.

Women’s Springboard — U.S. yet to qualify any Olympic spots
If the U.S. qualifies Olympic spots, look out for Kassidy Cook. Cook, after missing the Rio Olympic final by one spot, did not compete individually on the national level until last December’s Winter Nationals. She won it to earn a spot on the team for the World Cup, where she was to crucially compete to earn the U.S. an Olympic quota spot.

Potter also likes Cook’s synchro partner, Sarah Bacon, who last year became the first U.S. woman to earn an individual Olympic or world medal since 2005. Bacon, overcoming two shoulder surgeries, a concussion,  stress fractures in her back and mental struggles, took silver in the non-Olympic 1m springboard event at worlds.

Also worth noting: Brooke Schultz, who made the last two world championships teams and was third at 2019 Winter Nationals. And Krysta Palmer, a 27-year-old who didn’t start diving until she was 20.

Women’s Platform — U.S qualified two Olympic spots
Potter said the event is deeper domestically than it has been in a long time. All three Rio Olympians — Jessica ParrattoKatrina Young and Amy Cozad Magaña (synchro with Parratto in Rio)– are still competing.

The frontrunner has to be Delaney Schnell, who last year became the first U.S. woman to earn an individual world platform medal since 2005 (a bronze). There’s also Tarrin Gilliland, coming back from injury after competing in synchro at the 2017 World Championships at age 14. And Murphy Bromberg, the 2019 Winter Nationals champion who was third at the most recent Olympic and world championships trials.

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

Alex Zanardi
AP
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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

Shawn Johnson
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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.

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