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Katelyn Ohashi’s path from injury to viral perfect 10

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Before an ebullient floor routine went viral, before gymnastics fans and non-followers alike watched with smiles as she performed at the 2019 Collegiate Challenge, before a video of the routine garnered more than five million views on YouTube, and before she was an NCAA champion, Katelyn Ohashi was an injured gymnast who wondered if she would ever compete again.

Ohashi, now a senior at UCLA, received a perfect 10 this past weekend at the Collegiate Challenge for her personality-packed floor routine, helping the Bruins best three other teams (Cal, Michigan State and UC Davis) to win the event.

The 21-year-old was once a rising star in elite gymnastics. In 2011, she was the U.S. junior champion in the all-around, uneven bars, balance beam and floor. She won the 2013 American Cup, an early-season international meet, topping another gymnast who was then an up-and-coming standout: Simone Biles.

But privately, Ohashi was struggling, both with her body image and the physical pain that came with injuries. In a video published by the Player’s Tribune in August 2018, she says, “That girl you’d think would have it all, all these medals in her room…fans would tell her that she wasn’t good enough, [that] she didn’t look a certain way…I was broken.”

After dealing with serious back and shoulder injuries, Ohashi stepped away from elite competition. Doctors told her she might never return to gymnastics, and “I kind of hit rock bottom where I didn’t think I was going to be able to,” Ohashi said in an interview with FloGymnastics in 2014. She credited her then-coaches, Laurent and Cecile Landi (who now coach Biles), for helping to bring her back. “Laurent and Cecile kind of pulled me out what I was going through and helped me through everything,” she told FloGymnastics at the time.

Ohashi set her sights on competing collegiately, and in early 2015, committed to UCLA. Last season, she helped the Bruins to an NCAA team title, and was the co-champion on floor.

Her floor score last weekend was the sixth perfect 10 Ohashi has earned in her collegiate career (four on floor, two on beam). In finding her way back to gymnastics as part of a college team, Ohashi told the Player’s Tribune, “I found my joy, my voice, myself, my love for the sport.”

Parkour eyed for 2024 Olympics by gymnastics officials amid complaints

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PARIS (AP) — Their test of skill and courage was as dangerous as it was effective: Having clambered as stylishly as they could to the summit of a jagged, pyramid-shaped climbing wall in the suburbs of Paris, the young men would hang each other upside down by the feet from the top.

One slip and the four-story drop could have killed them.

Chau Belle flashes a grin at the memory of those heady days in the 1990s, when he and his gang of friends and cousins pushed each other and pushed the envelope of what has since mushroomed into a globalized street sport of urban acrobatics known as parkour. The sport is talked about as a possible new Olympic discipline but is also the focus of a heated custody battle as its popularity and marketing potential grow.

Parkour, derived from the French word for path or journey, was still just an exploration of self and of manhood when Belle and his friends were dangling each other off the 55-foot-tall Dame du Lac, with its view over Paris’ southern outskirts.

“It was a form of courage. A bit crazy, too. You really had to trust the person who held you,” the 41-year-old recalls. “It was a test. A test of self-belief. Of one’s friends. Of family. Of ourselves, too.”

Parkour was built around the simple philosophy that almost any terrain can, with imagination and training, be turned into a playground for running, jumping, climbing and pushing oneself.

Male practitioners call themselves traceurs; women are traceuses. Both roughly translate as pathfinder. They regard urban furniture — stairwells, walls, fences, pillars, tables, benches, trees, bridges, etc. — not as obstacles but as opportunities, free apparatus with which to have fun.

A milestone in parkour’s growth was injecting the adrenaline jolt into Daniel Craig’s opening scenes as James Bond, with the actor haring through a construction site in “Casino Royale” in pursuit of a terrorist with Spiderman skills, played by Sebastien Foucan.

Foucan was one of the founding practitioners of parkour, along with Belle, his cousin David Belle and a half-dozen others. Calling themselves “the Yamakasi” and the sport they were inventing “the art of movement,” they pieced together their new moves on, around and over the street furniture of Paris’ suburban concrete jungles.

“People see only what’s in front of them, at their feet. We succeeded in telling ourselves to look upwards, to say, ‘There are things we can do with this,’” Belle says. “We’d do the same exercise 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 times.”

“We obsessed about repetition, numbers, trying to figure out if something was useful,” he adds. “We were so hooked on this thing, on this search for ourselves.”

Others became hooked, too.

A child of the internet age, parkour spread virally and globally in part because its practitioners’ derring-do videos of gravity-defying flips, jumps and other exploits work in any language and readily generate social media clicks and followers.

But the sport’s coming of age has also attracted a powerful and determined suitor, one unwelcomed by many in parkour: gymnastics.

Using its financial muscle and clout within the Olympic movement, the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) is steadily bringing — critics say forcing — parkour under its wing. This month, a FIG Congress officially recognized parkour as gymnastics’ newest discipline. FIG is now organizing introduction-to-parkour coaching courses, scheduling its first world championships for parkour in 2020 and intends to lobby the International Olympic Committee for parkour’s inclusion in the 2024 Olympic in Paris.

All this despite a #WeAreNOTGymnastics protest movement by parkour lovers on social media and howls of complaint from parkour groups.

“This is the equivalent of a hostile takeover,” says Eugene Minogue, chief executive of Parkour Earth, the grouping formed in 2017 from six national associations that is one of FIG’s most vocal critics but is struggling to defend itself against the 137-year-old gymnastics federation that has the ear of Olympic leaders and the sports establishment.

“They are completely whitewashing our sport, its integrity, its history, its lineage, its authenticity,” Minogue said.

Minogue suspects FIG of wanting to get its hands on parkour’s young and growing fan base, to stay relevant with Olympic leaders who want action sports that appeal to 21st century audiences and sponsors. Other long-established sports have done likewise: Cycling, for example, absorbed BMX in the 1990s, and skiing became the international federation for snowboarding.

“They want to codify it, they want to monetize it,” Minogue says of FIG. “It’s about money, about influence, about power, about control. It’s about having a seat at the table.”

Another concern is that FIG-organized competitions could denature parkour’s “let’s play” philosophy and endanger parkour athletes by encouraging them to try overly dangerous, crowd- and judge-pleasing tricks.

“The one thing I hope is that gymnastics does not condone risk-taking and that it doesn’t glorify an elite. Because we’ve been fighting for 20 years against young people chasing clicks, filming themselves doing acrobatics and taking risks with the aim of becoming famous and finding a sponsor,” says Sacha Lemaire, president of the France-based Federation de Parkour.

“We’re afraid that glorifying competition will feed this phenomenon and that we’ll bear the brunt for that.”

FIG insists that parkour and gymnastics are far more of a natural fit than its critics acknowledge. As an example of how the sports can coexist, it points to Sweden, where parkour joined the gym federation in 2014 and where traceurs/traceuses often train in gymnastic facilities to avoid the Nordic weather.

In response to emailed questions from The Associated Press, FIG’s secretary general, Andre Gueisbuhler, said its competitions would not reward risk, would not be “about jumping furthest and highest” and would help make parkour safer.

FIG “offers an infrastructure which has all necessary means to develop the sport worldwide within a short time,” Gueisbuhler wrote.

Belle, who teaches what he still calls the art of movement, says he struggles to see convincing parallels between the activity dreamed up by the Yamakasi in their youth and what he regards as the codified, rigid world of gymnastics.

“Parkour has become a merchandise now,” he said. “At the beginning, it was free.”

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Laura Zeng, top U.S. rhythmic gymnast, suspended 6 months

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Laura Zeng, the four-time reigning U.S. rhythmic gymnastics champion and Olympian, was banned six months after testing positive for a banned substance in an altitude-sickness medication that she thought was ibuprofen, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

The 19-year-old Zeng’s ban runs through April 17, backdated to the date of her drug test. She will not miss any major meets.

The banned substance, acetazolamide, is a diuretic. The medication was prescribed to one of her parents. Zeng took the medication while traveling in a high-altitude location, according to USADA.

Since Zeng thought it was ibuprofen, which is not banned, she did not apply for a therapeutic-use exemption that athletes commonly request to take prescribed medication that contains otherwise banned substances.

In Rio, Zeng matched the highest individual Olympic finish for a U.S. rhythmic gymnast (11th place) since the sport was introduced at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

Zeng also has the highest all-around finishes for an American at the world championships, placing sixth in 2017 and eighth in 2015 and 2018.

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