Olympic Boxing Qualifying
AP

Some Olympic boxing hopefuls needed only one more day

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With tears in her eyes, Nadine Apetz asked herself “why not one more day?”

The German boxer had waited four years, and a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics was tantalizingly close when the qualifying tournament in London was suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“One day longer and I might have had it,” said Apetz, a 34-year-old welterweight who is studying for a doctorate in neuroscience. “I was crying because I was so disappointed. You are so close to your biggest goal, and it’s all stopped.”

The pandemic has forced many Olympic hopefuls to wait it out, but the delay is particularly painful for the European boxers who were on the verge of qualification last month. Several were only one victory away.

The competition at the Copper Box was suspended after three days. A short time later, the Tokyo Games were postponed for one year and are now set to open on July 23, 2021.

“They probably shouldn’t have started it in the first place,” Apetz said, citing public health risks.

Fighters including Apetz, Emilie Sonvico of France and Charley Davison of Britain won their opening bouts. If they win their next one, they’ll qualify.

Likewise, lightweights Luke McCormack of Britain and Nikolai Terteryan of Denmark can qualify in their next bout, while their welterweight twin brothers Pat McCormack and Sebastian Terteryan can guarantee spots with two more wins each.

The London competition lasted long enough for 16 boxers to qualify. Among them was British featherweight Peter McGrail.

“Tokyo 2020 see ya there,” he wrote on Instagram, followed by an expletive about the virus.

Sixty-one European spots remain available.

“It was so painful for me,” the 31-year-old Sonvico, who like Apetz was scheduled to fight again on Day 4, said of leaving London empty-handed. “It’s difficult because we have to go back to training. It’s a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice.”

Like other athletes, they also have practical challenges in lockdown. Davison, a flyweight who set aside earlier Olympic aspirations to start a family, trains at home while co-parenting three young children.

Apetz is trying to finish her Ph.D in neuroscience, examining brain stimulation in Parkinson’s disease.

Sonvico is an investigator with the gendarmerie, which conducts police duties but under French military jurisdiction. She’s been on leave while with the national team, but that was to end soon.

“If it goes well, I’ll need one more year,” said Sonvico, who uses a rowing machine and heavy bag at home in the south of France. “It’s a problem. The president of the French (boxing) federation is asking the gendarmerie to see what we can do.”

Both Apetz and Sonvico set goals for Tokyo only after their division — welterweight — and one other was added after the Rio Olympics. The Tokyo Games will have five women’s classes; the men’s divisions were cut from 10 to eight.

For Sonvico, representing her country is like carrying on a family tradition. Her father spent his career in the military.

“Since I was a little girl, I’ve lived with people who wear the French uniform,” she said. “For me, it’s very important.”

Sonvico, ninth at the 2019 World Championships, may turn professional after the Olympic cycle.

“People say I fight like Mike Tyson,” she said.

Any athlete who had already qualified for Tokyo has been assured they will keep their spots for 2021. The International Olympic Committee’s task force overseeing boxing said the European qualifier, when rescheduled, will “pick up from where it was suspended” and that other boxers won’t be eligible.

Qualifying tournaments in Africa and Asia/Oceania preceded the London competition, which began on March 14.

The Turkish boxing federation said at least two of its boxers and a coach tested positive for the virus after the London event. However, the IOC task force said it was “not possible to know the source of infection.”

Apetz, a bronze medalist at the 2018 World Championships and a six-time national champion, is scheduled to fight 6-foot-1 Karolina Koszewska, a 38-year-old Polish southpaw who won gold at the 2019 European Games.

Apetz, who describes herself as a “clever boxer,” had planned to stop fighting in 2016, but her national team asked her to continue when welterweight was added to the program for Tokyo.

Until recently, Apetz was limited to yoga sessions in her cramped Cologne apartment and some jogging. Relaxed rules now allow her to work out at her gym, but numbers are restricted, so there are no partner drills or sparring sessions.

Eased restrictions may allow German athletes to return to serious training sooner than others, but Apetz hopes that’s not the case.

“It’s not what the Olympic spirit is about,” she said. “You want to earn it.”

MORE: Pregnant at 12, she qualified for Olympic boxing at 26

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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.

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

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