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John Orozco, U.S. Olympic gymnast, switches to Puerto Rico

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John Orozco, a 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnast who left the sport after tearing an ACL three weeks before the Rio Games, is returning as a Puerto Rican.

Orozco’s nationality switch was approved by the International Gymnastics Federation, it announced on Monday. Orozco’s parents were born in Puerto Rico before immigrating to the Bronx.

“I have the goal of just being able to represent the place that my family’s from,” Orozco said, according to the Olympic Channel. “I never got to do that, and I feel more connected to my community and the people that represent me.”

Orozco, 27, could attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics at the Pan American Championships in May in Utah, where two individual spots are available per gender.

“It is in the back of my head,” Orozco said, according to Olympic Channel. “I have to really take my time and take it slow coming back.”

Orozco had moved on from a decorated gymnastics career to pursue the entertainment industry in Southern California.

He qualified for two Olympics, won a U.S. all-around title and earned three world championships bronze medals. This during a career in which he suffered two torn right Achilles and two torn left ACLs before the age of 24.

“I’m very, very grateful for the career that I’ve had,” he said in 2017.

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Monica Puig’s unlikely Olympic tennis gold reminded her of ‘Miracle’ scene

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NEW YORK (AP) — Monica Puig gazed out at her fellow Puerto Ricans jamming the parade route, and in their eyes she saw hope.

They hailed her with “a sense of satisfaction,” she recalled Saturday, “and a sense of belief that things are going to get better.”

Throughout her stunning run to the Olympic tennis gold medal, Puig embraced the symbolism of each upset victory. An economic crisis is devastating the island of her birth, and she appreciated that if she could prove the impossible is possible, that message would reverberate far beyond sports.

“If Puerto Rico channels that same energy and belief that things will get better and working for the better of the island, the better of the community, things will improve,” Puig said four days after the U.S. territory honored its Olympic team and, above all, its first gold medalist.

“I really hope I gave them a lot of confidence moving forward,” she added, “that things will actually get better.”

The world’s 34th-ranked women’s tennis player met with a roomful of reporters Saturday, exactly two weeks after she beat Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber in three sets in the final in Rio de Janeiro. Poised and philosophical in ways that bely her age, the 22-year-old realizes some people deem her gold medal “a fluke.”

After all, Puig has never made it past the round of 16 at a major. And at the U.S. Open, which starts Monday, she’s never advanced beyond the second round. Puig is already bracing herself for the reality that her run at Flushing Meadows could fall well short of what took place in Rio.

“I’m 22 years old. There’s still a long way for me to go, a long stretch of career,” she said. “If anything happens, any kind of slip-up, it’s not really going to be a big deal, because I have a process and I have a long-term view of where I want to go.”

Which isn’t to say she expects a slip-up.

“I know that the Olympics wasn’t a fluke for me, because I have worked very hard to get to where I am,” Puig said. “I know the hours and the tears and the sweat and everything that’s been put into my practices. It’s been very difficult for me.

“But that moment, nobody will be able to take away.”

Even she considers that Olympic moment to be like something out of a movie script. When spectators chanted “Si se puede!” (“Yes you can!” in Spanish) during the final against the second-ranked Kerber, Puig flashed back to a scene from the film “Miracle” about the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.

With fans roaring “U-S-A!” coach Herb Brooks tells his players: “Listen to them. That’s what you’ve done.” As Puig said Saturday, “I needed to listen to the crowd.”

Her gold might not have been quite as unlikely as the Miracle on Ice, but it wasn’t too far off. The night after her victory, Puig slept with the medal on her nightstand, waking up every few hours to make sure it was real. She still feels the need to check up on it during the day.

“I see the videos and I’m like, ‘Did this really just happen?'” Puig said.

When they showed the clip of her medal ceremony when she was honored in Puerto Rico, she started crying again. Through it all, she insisted Saturday, she felt she kept her focus, knowing the U.S. Open was looming.

After Rio, Puig spent some time with her family in Miami, where she lives. Then it was on to the island “where the big party was waiting.” It’s been hard to squeeze in sleep and alone time and practice — all the things she needs to recover from one big event and prepare for another.

Puig faces 60th-ranked Zheng Saisai, who upset Agnieszka Radwanska at the Olympics, in the first round Monday. She originally wasn’t seeded at Flushing Meadows, which meant she could have faced a top player in her opening match, but she moved up to the final seed when Sloane Stephens withdrew because of an injury Friday.

It’s the first time Puig has been seeded at a major, and in what was a breakthrough season even before her golden moment, she’s starting to grow comfortable with those sorts of roles.

“I feel like I finally understand what I’m doing when it comes to tennis,” she said.

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Croatia, Serbia men’s basketball teams reach Rio; France-Canada left

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Croatia and Serbia became the 10th and 11th teams to qualify for the Olympic men’s basketball tournament, leaving one spot left for the winner of France-Canada on Sunday.

It’s the second time since the split of Yugoslavia that both Croatia and Serbia qualified for the Olympics, the other time being Atlanta 1996 (though only Croatia was independent at that time).

Croatia, led by Brooklyn Nets swingman Bojan Bogdanovic, edged host Italy in overtime 84-78 in one last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament final Saturday.

World silver medalist Serbia, with Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, crushed Puerto Rico 108-77 in another last-chance tournament final in Belgrade on Saturday.

Canada and France, two teams that could be loaded with NBA players in Rio, will face off Sunday at 9 a.m. ET in Manila for the final spot in the 12-team Olympic field.

World bronze medalist France is led by San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker. Canada’s best player, Minnesota Timberwolves swingman Andrew Wiggins, decided not to play in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

The Olympic men’s basketball tournament field:

Brazil — Host nation
U.S. — 2014 World champion
Australia — Oceania champion
Nigeria — Africa champion
Argentina — Americas finalist
Venezuela — Americas finalist
Spain — Europe finalist
Lithuania — Europe finalist
China — Asia champion
Croatia
Serbia
France or Canada

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