Friday, July 20, 2018
Sports

Tears and comebacks. Next: Rio

At the U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics trials, tears were shed.

Tears from gymnasts who made the team. Tears from gymnasts who didn't.

Tears even from Martha Karolyi, the normally stoic women's national team coordinator, who at the end of the trials on Sunday night had no choice but to crush the hearts and hopes of the gymnasts who weren't among those five women she had chosen to represent the United States at the Rio Games.

The pool of gymnasts were just so good, Karolyi said, it was "absolutely the hardest decision" she has had to make in her 16 years as team leader. Now her chosen few are the favorite to win the team gold, in this, her final year in charge. They also are talented enough to win several — if not all — of the gold medals in the four individual events in Rio.

The tears on Sunday were no surprise, not in a sport so mentally and physically grueling, and after a lifetime's worth of work and sacrifice. They weren't a sign of weakness, though. Far from it. From these tough women, they were a natural release.

For Aly Raisman, the tough team captain and emotional leader who made her second Olympics, the tears at these trials began early. They started on Friday, even before the competition began. Her longtime coach, Mihai Brestyan, saw it coming.

"Just sit down and let it out," he recalled telling her. "Let it all out."

And so Raisman did, letting her tears soak her leotard.

Raisman — who, at 22, is known as the national team's "grandma" — was thinking about how far she had come to make it to the cusp of another Olympics. The exhaustion. The frustration. But each woman who made the team had her own reasons to weep, and happiness was the basis for it.

For Simone Biles, the tumbling, twisting physical and mental phenom who could win five gold medals in Rio, some of the pressure was lifted after she won trials.

For Gabby Douglas, the defending all-around champion from the 2012 London Games, it was a relief to make the team at all. Her performance at the trials was shaky — she was seventh in the all-around — but she was given a spot on the team anyway, with expectations that she will help the U.S. on the uneven bars, her specialty.

Laurie Hernandez, who is just 16 and finished second in the all-around, and Madison Kocian, a world champion on the uneven bars, sniffled because they had just achieved a lifelong goal.

Raisman was overwhelmed by her accomplishment. It's rare for an Olympian to return to a second Olympics because it's so easy to career off track after taking time off. Third at the trials, Raisman had taken more than a year off after she won three medals, including two golds, at the London Games.

She went on a tour with the Olympic team, hopping from city to city. She competed on Dancing With the Stars. She took classes at Babson College. She traveled to appearances and photo shoots. Ah, freedom, after all her years in the gym. It was so strange and delightful, she said. Yet she wasn't ready to forsake her sport.

So in September 2013, Raisman told Brestyan that she wanted to train for the 2016 Games. Brestyan said Raisman needed to get back into "leotard shape" before he would consider resuming serious training with her.

"You need to show me your desire," he said. "I will give you a year. A whole year. If you are still serious after a year, we will move forward."

She agreed to the deal.

To regain her fitness, she ran and ran. She cut back her portions of food, ate healthier and did simple moves in the gym: box jumps, toe raises, handstands on the uneven bars, punch front flips and handspring after handspring. As the year progressed, her workouts grew more difficult.After a year, Brestyan was convinced. And only then did he call Karolyi to say that Raisman would be returning to training camp.

Douglas, 20, returned at the same time. Her comeback had also been harrowing. To get into shape, she jogged, but admitted that when she began, she couldn't even run 3 miles. "I had to stop a lot, like at every stop sign," she said. "So it turned into interval training."

Like Raisman, Douglas, 20, admitted that she had underestimated what it would take to bounce back. She had thought it "would be cake" to make the Olympic team because she had already done it once. But after struggling this weekend — she fell off the balance beam each night — she said she wished she had been more focused on her training, much earlier in the process.

"So many people thought we were crazy and doubted us," Raisman said. "But we did it."

After her final routine Sunday, Raisman hugged Biles, who started to cry when she saw Raisman crying. The other gymnasts surrounded them in a group hug of sparkly leotards, making it look as if they were being embraced by a rainbow.

"Stop crying, you're going to ruin your makeup!" Hernandez said.

Raisman, the veteran who had been through so much, didn't need that advice. She had planned for the moment, just as meticulously as she had planned her comeback. Before heading to the arena, she had applied waterproof mascara. And she will bring it to Rio, too.

— New York Times

Comments
ACC recap: Top sound bites from Charlotte

ACC recap: Top sound bites from Charlotte

College football's talking season commenced this week with three Power Five conferences staging their annual media days. We were in Charlotte for the ACC gab-a-rama, where sound bites ranging from the bizarre to the brain-dead were generated.And that...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Marc Topkin: Rays should trade Chris Archer

Marc Topkin: Rays should trade Chris Archer

ST. PETERSBURG — Chris Archer wants the Rays to get going.Trade more veterans. Bring back Willy Adames and bring up the next group of kids. Get on with getting better, and get back to reaching the postseason, as they did four times over six yea...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome shoots 78 in PGA Tour debut

Seminole’s Brittany Lincicome shoots 78 in PGA Tour debut

Seminole's Brittany Lincicome survived her first round on the PGA Tour at the Barbasol Championship in Nicholasville, Ky., on Thursday, and she can't wait to do it again Friday.Though Lincicome shot 6-over 78 and will likely miss the cut — she ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Longtime Tampa Catholic athletic director Nick DiMaggio dies

Longtime Tampa Catholic athletic director Nick DiMaggio dies

Nick DiMaggio, the longtime athletic director at Tampa Catholic who was a fixture at the school's sporting events for more than 50 years, died Wednesday (July 18, 2018) from complications related to a stroke. He was 86."Nick was an icon, a walking en...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Sports on TV/radio for Friday, July 20

TODAYAction sportsX Games9 p.m.ESPNArena FootballPhiladelphia at Baltimore7 p.m.CBSSNAutosMonster Energy Cup: Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 qualifying4:30 p.m.NBCSNBaseballCardinals at Cubs2 p.m.MLBMarlins at Rays7 p.m.Fox Sun, FSF; 620-AMMets at Yankee...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Florida State defensive forecast not that simple

Florida State defensive forecast not that simple

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — His debut at the ACC kickoff attracted a wholly unsurprising assortment of topics. New FSU coach Willie Taggart was asked about his culture, his quarterbacks, his catch phrases.He handled each question deftly, hardly devi...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Rays journal: Catcher needed with Wilson Ramos on DL

Rays journal: Catcher needed with Wilson Ramos on DL

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays did not have any answers Thursday about the state of their catching situation as to how long Wilson Ramos will be out and who will be added to replace him Friday against the Marlins.Ramos was placed on the DL Wednesday...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Quarterback rankings: The best seasons in Buccaneers history

Quarterback rankings: The best seasons in Buccaneers history

It was Dec. 20, 1981, the final Sunday of the NFL regular season, and the NFC Central title was on the line. The Buccaneers were in Detroit, where the Lions hadn’t lost all season.The Lions, who were favored by a touchdown, took a 7-3 lead in t...
Published: 07/19/18
Judge grants ex-girlfriend’s restraining order against ex-Plant QB Robert Marve

Judge grants ex-girlfriend’s restraining order against ex-Plant QB Robert Marve

PLANT CITY — Robert Marve hesitated to get out of his attorney’s car when they pulled into the parking lot of the Plant City Courthouse on Thursday afternoon. The former Plant High and University of Miami quarterback was there to plead no contest to ...
Published: 07/19/18
Willie Taggart: Francois’ offseason problems are ‘behind us’

Willie Taggart: Francois’ offseason problems are ‘behind us’

FSU coach Willie Taggart indicated Thursday the tumultuous offseason of QB Deondre Francois won't factor in to his quest for the starting job when preseason camp commences next month."He's handled his consequences behind that, and he's moved on," Tag...
Published: 07/19/18