Olympic Boxing Qualifying
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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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Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

Sam Mikulak
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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

April Ross, Alix Klineman
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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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