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Hancock, English give Americans a skeet sweep at Tokyo Games

Hancock, English give Americans a skeet sweep at Tokyo Games

It’s a skeet sweep for the United StatesBy JOHN MARSHALL AP Sports WriterJuly 26, 2021, 10:08 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleTOKYO — Amber English erased the disappointment of barely missing the two previous Olympics by winning a gold medal.Vincent Hancock made history about an hour later, becoming the first skeet shooter to win three golds.Two shotgun events, two American golds, one sweet skeet sweep.“It sets the tone of what can happen at USA Shooting,” Hancock said. “Our athletes have been shooting at a really high level for quite a few years now. Because we’re a small sport, we don’t quite get the recognition, but looking at the number of medals we win on a yearly basis, it’s impressive.”The United States’ shooting showing in Tokyo got off a strong start with 20-year-old William Shaner’s gold in 10-meter air rifle on Sunday.English kept the good vibes flowing in the opening shotgun event, hitting 56 of 60 targets to set an Olympic record and beat reigning skeet champion Diana Bacosi of Italy by one. Wei Meng of China took bronze after tying a world record in qualifying.Hancock capped the two-day tone-setting tally with his own Olympic record, hitting 59 of 60 shots to add another gold medal to the ones he won in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. Abdullah Al-Rashidi of Kuwait won his second straight bronze after competing at the Rio Games as an Independent Olympic Athlete.English and Hancock have known each other since they were 16, so reaching the top step of the same podium made it extra special.”I love that girl like a sister and now we both have medals around our neck,” Hancock said.Each took a step back on their way to the top of the podium.For English, it was the death of her father a few years ago and the disappointment of coming up just short of making the U.S. team at the 2012 and 2016 Games.The 31-year-old worked her way back into position to make the 2020 team, training while working to become an Army officer in Fort Benning, Georgia. English, who comes from a deep shooting family, finished third at the 2018 world championship and climbed to 24th in the ISSF world rankings with seven top-10 finishes the past three years.English and Bacosi each hit 47 of 50 targets to reach the final and the American earned gold by hitting her final 10 attempts while the Italian missed her third shot.“I’m very, very glad,” English said. “This has been a long time coming.”Hancock has been the world’s best skeet shooter, winning two Olympic golds, four world championships and six World Cup events. He also was the first American skeet shooter to complete a perfect World Cup event, hitting every target at a 2015 competition in Mexico.Hancock was not in the right frame of mind at the Rio Games and it cost him in a 15th-place finish.The 32-year-old from Fort Worth, Texas, needed a shoot-off to get into the finals in Tokyo after tying with six others, but he was on the mark once in, hitting his final 34 shots to beat Jesper Hansen of Denmark by four.Hancock pumped his fist after hitting the last target, raising his arms as the limited crowd started a chant of “U-S-A!”After the medal ceremony, English and Hancock were joined for a photo with fellow shooter Kim Rhode, the first U.S. individual Olympic athlete to medal in five consecutive Games and an alternate on this year’s team.“All the skeet shooters are very close and we’re just ready to keep it rolling,” English said.They’re certainly off to a good start, thanks to two skeet-shooting friends with gold hanging from their necks.———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

China's Yang wins 1st gold of Tokyo Olympics in air rifle

China's Yang wins 1st gold of Tokyo Olympics in air rifle

TOKYO — Javad Foroughi spent his nights caring for gravely ill patients, doing everything he could to help them breathe. Many didn’t make it.Foroughi contracted COVID-19 himself, recovered and feared he would catch it again while doing his job.Amid all the horrors and difficulties, the shooter never let his goal blur from focus.Now the Iranian nurse is an Olympic champion.Unshaken in his first Games, Foroughi became Iran’s oldest medalist and set a record in the process, earning gold in the men’s 10-meter air pistol Saturday at the Tokyo Olympics.“I’m very happy I did my job on both sides,” Foroughi said through an interpreter. “As a nurse, we battled COVID and it was very hard. As a shooter, I worked a lot the last two years for this moment.”On the women’s side, Yang Qian won the first gold medal of the Games, setting an Olympic record in 10-meter air rifle with 251.8 points despite a shaky final shot.Foroughi also set an Olympic record with 244.8 points, finishing 6.9 ahead of Serbia’s Damir Mikec. China’s Pang Wei, the 2008 gold medalist, took bronze.The 41-year-old Foroughi surpasses Iranian weightlifter Mahmoud Namdjou, who was 38 when he got bronze at the 1956 Melbourne Games.The journey to the top step of the Olympic podium was an unlikely one.Born with a defect that made his heart pump too hard, Foroughi was unable to participate in most sports growing up. Even shooting, which requires slowing the heart rate and steadying the nerves, was not an option.Once he got his heart condition under control, he became hooked on shooting, learning to fire a pistol in the hospital basement. He trained after finishing his night shifts and turned himself into an elite shooter.Forough contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic and was unable to train for a month. Shutdowns left him nowhere to shoot once he recovered, so he worked on body and mind training. He eventually was able to train and compete online with other shooters, honing his craft so he would be ready when in-person competitions resumed.Boy, was he.Foroughi won two World Cups earlier this year and arrived at Tokyo ranked fourth in the world. He qualified fifth and immediately jumped to the lead in the finals with a series of shots in the 10-ring. He led Mikec by 4.2 points entering the final two shots and celebrated the gold medal by waving his towel before kneeling on it to pray.Mikec joined in, wrapping up Foroughi in a bear hug and lifting him off the ground.“I’m very happy that I received some success,” Foroughi said.Mikec wasn’t done celebrating.After lifting Foroughi, he went over to Serbian compatriots at the edge of the stands and began hugging them after earning silver in his first Olympic appearance.Not exactly in line with coronavirus safety protocols, but a needed released after going through his own struggles, including a 10-day stint in the hospital with COVID-19.”You’re not supposed to do that, but the emotions were stronger than anything else,” Mikec said.Yang had a few emotions of her own after a close call and her worst shot of the finals.Within 0.2 points of Russian Anastasiia Galashina, Yang missed the center ring on her final shot, a 9.8 that seemingly knocked her off the top step of the podium.But as she was shooting, Galashina had a miscue of her own, hitting an 8.9 on her final shot as the limited crowd at Asaka Shooting Range let out a gasp.“It’s unbelievable that I can be here,” Yang said through an interpreter. “I was really nervous. The competition was really tight, but I’m so happy that I could win.”Nina Christen of Switzerland took bronze.Yang, who qualified sixth, had been consistent throughout the finals, repeatedly hitting near the center of the 10 circle. She entered the final two shots just behind Galashina and figured the gold was gone with the 9.8.Disappointed with her final shot, Yang looked up to see Galashina missed on her chance and the two center rings. The Russian’s 8.9 meant IOC President Thomas Bach would present Yang the gold medal on a tray — per pandemic protocols — instead of Galashina.“I got too nervous, held on too long,” said Galashina, who finished with 251.1 points. “My thoughts were not in the right place. I lost concentration. The explanation is very simple.”———More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Analytical mind pushes Duffy to Olympic heights

Analytical mind pushes Duffy to Olympic heights

SALT LAKE CITY — Climbing takes stamina and strength, from fingers to toes and everything in between.The physical side is only half of the equation.Solving a rock wall also requires mental acuity, an ability to identify the best route not only to the top, but prevent getting stuck.Colin Duffy’s mind is a perfect fit.Mathematically inclined and an avid puzzle solver, the 17-year-old Duffy has scaled his way into the elite level of sport climbing, becoming one of the youngest athletes to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.“A lot of climbers are really smart, love math and science, and analytical thinking, enjoying the problem solving has really helped,” Duffy said. “That’s a big part of climbing. It’s not just a physical sport. It’s also being able to handle the mental pressure and being able to solve the climbs, mentally processing everything before physically getting on it.”Duffy was like a lot of elite climbers when he was growing up, scaling anything and everything in front of him. Look away for a second and his parents might find him climbing the railing of the neighbors’ stairs or hanging from the balcony.Duffy was drawn to the climbing wall at the local recreation center at a young age, the massive wall — at least to a 5-year-old — and colorful holds prodding him to scale. He proved to be good at it at a young age and began climbing at ABC Kids Climbing in Boulder, Colorado, where he learned from other elite youth climbers.Now one of his fellow climbers at ABC is an American teammate for sport climbing’s Olympic debut later this month.Brooke Raboutou was raised by two world cup champion climbers, Didier Raboutou and Robyn Erbesfield-Raboutou, and became one of the world’s best climbers. She and Duffy grew up climbing walls together, pushing each other all the way to the Olympic rings.“At a young age, being around so many strong kids and elite athletes really helped form my climbing,” he said. “Climbing around strong people really motivates you. It’s really cool to go to the Olympics with Brooke.”Duffy is built more like a lightweight wrestler at a muscular 5-foot-6, so some moves that climbers make are not possible for him.That’s where the problem solving comes in.Duffy excels at math and science in school — he’s eyeing an engineering degree in college — and loves the challenge of solving puzzles. He uses his mind to figure out the rubric of rock walls that suits him best, even if it’s not the route other climbers might take.“He’s just always had an intuition for movement, he’s always had a confidence in his ability,” fellow American Olympian Nathaniel Coleman said “So he’s grown up unafraid of doing big dynamic moves, which is super important for his size. He’s never been held back by the way you’re supposed to climb. He’s always prioritized his own style.”Duffy’s strength and analytical mind have taken him to heights not even he expected so quickly.He has been an elite climber on the youth climbing circuit, twice winning International Federation of Sport Climbing youth world championships and finishing second in another.Duffy has tackled outdoor problems far more experienced climbers might not even attempt, including two 5.14c routes at the Red River Gorge in the same day.Duffy’s goal had been to make the U.S. Olympic team for the 2024 Paris Games. He pushed the timetable forward in 2020, winning the IFSC Pan American Championships to clinch an Olympic spot as a high school sophomore.Duffy’s high school held an assembly to celebrate his accomplishment. The attention at such a young age has been a little strange, but it hasn’t altered his determination heading into the Tokyo Games.“I don’t really care about the results. I just want to climb well,” he said. “Being so young, I don’t really have any pressure on me. I’m less experienced than everyone else, so just go in and give it my best shot, see where that gets me.”If there’s a problem in front of Duffy, he’ll likely find a way to solve it. No reason to think it won’t happen when climbing goes under the Olympic spotlight.———More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Hendricks wins 10th straight, Cubs beat Diamondbacks 5-1

Hendricks wins 10th straight, Cubs beat Diamondbacks 5-1

Kyle Hendricks outpitched Madison Bumgarner in six effective innings for his 10th straight win and the Chicago Cubs opened the second half of the season with a 5-1 victory over ArizonaBy JOHN MARSHALL AP Sports WriterJuly 17, 2021, 7:13 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePHOENIX — Kyle Hendricks outpitched Madison Bumgarner in six effective innings for his 10th straight win and the Chicago Cubs opened the second half of the season with a 5-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.Hendricks (12-4) allowed a run on six hits and struck out four to match the Dodgers’ Julio Urias for the major league lead in wins. He is the first Cubs pitcher to go at least 12 straight starts without a loss since Jon Lester in 2016.“I wanted to set a good tone, obviously winning being the main goal,” Hendricks said. “It could have been a little better, I could have been a little more aggressive. I had a lot of long counts, a lot of baserunners, but made the pitches when I needed to.”Pinch-hitter Jason Heyward hit a two-run homer, All-Star Kris Bryant had a solo shot and Patrick Wisdom added another for Chicago.“These guys just came out and played nice baseball,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “We got the starting pitching, we got timely hitting, the big home run by Riz when they tied it up and obviously the pinch-hit home run by J-Hey was nice. It was just a good baseball game.”Bumgarner (4-6) allowed two runs on two hits and struck out six over six innings in his return from the injured list. Josh Rojas doubled twice and had an RBI for last-place Arizona, which has lost four of five.“It went about as well as we could have hoped,” manager Torey Lovullo said of Bumgarner. “He did a great job.”Hendricks gave up Rojas’ run-scoring double in the third inning and worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the fourth after walking two. He was lifted for Heyward in the seventh inning, becoming the first Cubs pitcher with 12 wins before August since Lester in 2018.Bumgarner was reinstated from the 10-day injured list after suffering left shoulder inflammation before the All-Star break.The left-hander was sharp in his return.Bumgarner gave up a run in the second inning on Javier Baez’s sacrifice fly and Bryant, fresh off his fourth All-Star appearance, hit an 0-2 pitch out to right for a solo homer in the fourth.Bumgarner also hit two batters.“Overall, it felt good to get back out there,” Bumgarner said. “It was super comfortable being out five or six weeks, but I felt good.”Wisdom hit a towering homer just inside the left field foul pole off Matt Peacock, and Heyward followed with his two-run shot to put Chicago up 5-1.TIME CHANGEFirst pitch for Saturday’s game between the Cubs and Diamondbacks has been pushed up to 1:10 p.m. due to Game 5 of the NBA Finals.The Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks are tied 2-all in the series and play just a few blocks from Chase Field. Construction in downtown Phoenix also has led to multiple street closures, causing massive traffic jams during the NBA playoffs.TRAINER’S ROOMCubs: INF Eric Sogard (left thumb) was activated off 10-day injured list and takes the roster spot of Joc Pederson, who was traded to Atlanta on Thursday.LET’S MAKE A DEALAfter the game, the Diamondbacks traded veteran catcher Stephen Vogt to the Atlanta Braves for minor league first baseman Mason Berne.The 25-year-old Berne was 3 for 12 with a home run and three RBIs in five games in the low minors with the FCL Braves this season. He has a .231 batting average and .659 OPS with five homers and 27 RBIs in 75 career minor league games. He was drafted by Atlanta in the 33rd round in 2018 out of the UNC-Wilmington.The 36-year-old Vogt, a two-time All-Star with Oakland, batted .212 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 52 games for the Diamondbacks this season.UP NEXTDiamondbacks RHP Zac Gallen (1-4, 4.17 ERA) is expected to be reinstated from the 10-day injured list to face Chicago RHP Adbert Alzolay (4-9, 4.66) in Saturday’s game. Gallen had been out since injuring his right hamstring on July 2.———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Slater hits late 2-run homer, Giants beat Diamondbacks 6-5

Slater hits late 2-run homer, Giants beat Diamondbacks 6-5

Austin Slater hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning, Mike Yastrzemski also had a two-run shot and the San Francisco Giants rallied to beat the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks 6-5By JOHN MARSHALL AP Sports WriterJuly 4, 2021, 6:48 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articlePHOENIX — San Francisco manager Gabe Kapler opted to have Austin Slater to pinch hit for Alex Dickerson to lead off the fifth inning.Slater ended up grounding out, but he made up for it with a big blast at a crucial moment.Slater hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning, Mike Yastrzemski also had a two-run shot and the Giants rallied to beat the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks 6-5 on Saturday night.“We depend on Slater and I thought that was an important enough at-bat to get him into the game,” Kapler said. ”Obviously, he got the biggest hit of the night for us.”The Giants hit three homers to end a season-long four-game losing streak in an 11-4 win Friday and again took the Diamondbacks down with the long ball.Arizona went up 5-4 on David Peralta’s bloop single in the fifth inning, but Slater fouled off a couple of good pitches from Ryan Buchter (0-2) before hitting a 463-foot homer to center.San Francisco has scored 214 of its 405 runs (52.8%) of its runs this season on homers.Dominic Leone (2-0) struck out two in the seventh inning and Jake McGee worked a perfect ninth for his 16th save in 18 chances, improving the Giants to a majors-best 52-30. San Francisco overcame a season-high three errors and Thairo Estrada getting picked off first in the eighth.“I don’t think we played our crisp brand of baseball defensively or on the bases,” Kapler said. “We weren’t at our best and are going to need to be better than that.”Nick Ahmed hit a two-run homer to help Arizona rally from an early four-run deficit, but the bullpen had another letdown. The last-place Diamondbacks have lost six of seven.“We fell down four runs, fought back and tied it, and took the lead,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We just got clipped. We just have to do a better job on the mound.”Diamondbacks starter Jake Faria allowed a run in four innings against St. Louis on June 28 in his first big league start since 2018. The right-hander escaped a jam in the first inning against the Giants, but couldn’t wriggle out of trouble in the third.San Francisco wore red caps as part of Major League Baseball’s Fourth of July promotion, a glaring change from the Giants’ usual black.Yastrzemski hit his 12th homer, a two-run shot, followed by Brandon Crawford’s run-scoring triple and Donovan Solano’s RBI single.“He was OK,” Lovullo said of Faria. “I think the line score was little worse than what it was. He attacked the zone, had real good spin on his secondary pitches and he competed.Giants starter Sammy Long couldn’t hold the lead.Asdrubal Cabrera and Christian Walker each had run-scoring singles in the third inning, and Ahmed tied it at 4 with a two-run homer just over the wall in right in the fourth.“I was just trying to stay through the middle of the field and got just enough of the barrel on it,” Ahmed said.DEFENSIVE GEMSDiamondbacks LF David Peralta made a spectacular catch and possibly saved a run in the sixth inning, ranging in to make a diving catch on Yastrzemski’s flare into shallow left-center.Giants LF Jaylen Davis also made a diving catch in the eighth inning to rob Ahmed of a hit with a runner on first.SHORT HOPSThe Giants have outscored the Diamondbacks 117-65 while going 16-3 against them since the start of the 2020 season. … Faria had a double in the third inning for first career hit. … Crawford passed JT Snow for ninth on the SF-era (1958-present) RBIs list with 616.TRAINER’S ROOMGiants: 3B Evan Longoria played catch before the game as he works his way back from a left shoulder sprain. He could be back by late July. … RHP Logan Webb (right shoulder strain) is scheduled to throw at Triple-A Sacramento on Tuesday. … INF Tommy La Stella (left hamstring strain) could go on rehab assignment during the All-Star break.Diamondbacks: RHP Zac Gallen was placed on the 10-day injured list after leaving Friday’s game in the third inning with strained right hamstring. Arizona selected the contract of C Bryan Holaday from Triple-A Reno to take his roster spot.UP NEXTSan Francisco RHP Anthony Scalafini (8-3, 2.91 ERA) will face Arizona LHP Caleb Smith (2-4, 3.08) in the series finale Sunday.———More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

NHL pushes puck up ice in bid to reach Latino communities

NHL pushes puck up ice in bid to reach Latino communities

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Scott Gomez grew up among the diverse cultures that amalgamate around Anchorage, Alaska. Race was something he never really thought about, particularly on the ice.The son of a Mexican American father and Colombian mother, Gomez heard a few disparaging remarks while coming up through the junior and professional ranks, but the occasions were rare.He was a hockey player and that’s all that mattered.“The game was always accepting,” said Gomez, an assistant coach with the New York Rangers. “When you’re in that locker room, you’re one of the boys. Sure, you’re going to get the occasional off-color joke, but long as you give it back you’re fine. It’s never about race. It’s about what you can do on the ice.”Gomez was one of the first Latinos to reach the NHL in 1999 — Bill Guerin was the first — and he played 16 seasons for seven teams, winning the Stanley Cup twice with New Jersey.The number of Latino players has increased across the NHL, minor leagues and colleges in recent years, including Auston Matthews, Max Pacioretty, Al Montoya and Raffi Torres.More are on the way.The NHL and teams across the league have made big pushes to tap a massive potential fan base and develop Latino players — in the United States and Mexico.“This is a sport that’s about passion, it’s about skill and it’s a sport that can really bring together families and it can be multigeneration,” Arizona Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez said. “I think it’s a sport that’s primed to become a part of the Latino community in the U.S., and it’s important for the NHL to do it.”The Coyotes have been at the forefront of the push, starting in the front office.Gutierrez became the first Latino president and CEO in NHL history when he was hired last year. His boss, Alex Meruelo, became the first Latino majority owner when he bought the Coyotes in 2019.The Coyotes, like other teams in the Southwest, play in markets with huge Latino populations and have developed programs to engage those communities.Arizona created a Hispanic Advisory Board to improve relationships with the Hispanic community after Meruelo bought the team and has expanded its outreach.The Coyotes have also created partnerships with Latino business associations and have gone into school districts with dense Latino populations to introduce kids to the Coyotes and hockey.Arizona has held youth ball hockey clinics with organizations in areas with large Latino populations, bringing sticks and balls that kids can take home to continue their interest in the game. The Coyotes also have Spanish-language social media accounts to engage Latino fans.“You think of Arizona, I absolutely have to go after the Latino community because they are the consumer base and they are continuing to grow, and they are the labor force and the business ownership,” Gutierrez said.The efforts are growing outside the state as well.The NHL launched a Spanish-language platform on its website in 2019, providing content from native Spanish-speaking reporters The league also began celebrating Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month to amplify the stories of people who have made contributions to the game.The Dallas Stars hosted learn-to-play programs in Mexico City last season, and the Chicago Blackhawks launched Un Gol on the team website with translated stories and videos.The Anaheim Ducks started providing materials in Spanish for their SCORE program, which uses hockey themes to teach school children educational themes, healthy living and character building.The New Jersey Devils’ Hockey in NJ program has strong support in Hispanic communities, as does the Philadelphia Flyers’ Snider Hockey program and Tampa Bay’s Lightning Made.The Golden Knights have Spanish-language social media channels — as do the San Jose Sharks — and run street clinics in Hispanic communities.The Los Angeles Kings created a model for their Jr. Kings program before playing exhibition games in Beijing in 2017 and have carried it into Mexico City. The program has expanded to 150 players and, during the pandemic, ran Zoom training with the club with question-and-answer sessions for the players, parents and coaches.The peewee Jr. Kings won a national championship in their division and 15 players have been invited to the team’s training camp in El Segundo, California, in August. The Kings also launched a ball hockey program with the 26 YMCAs across the city as part of their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles in 2019.“It’s diversifying our reach for and understanding in a place like Los Angeles, which is such a melting pot,” said Mike Altieri. the Kings’ senior vice president of marketing, communications and content. “We had success in winning two Stanley Cups and being a very influential voice in the marketplace and we couldn’t lose sight that there were opportunities for growth everywhere and we need to diversify our audience.”———AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this story.

Hands the key to keeping a grip in Olympic climbing

Hands the key to keeping a grip in Olympic climbing

SALT LAKE CITY — The skin stretches taught, veins pouring in tributaries over the linear lines of the carpals and metacarpals.The phalanges fall into line like a picket fence with boards of varying lengths, the knuckles unknobby. They’re long, yet not spindly, even muscular — if fingers can be muscular.The palms are proportional, powerful like mini car compactors. The fingernails are closely cropped, tips arching in unblemished partial ellipses.The cue is in the cuticles, chalky halos announcing these are the hands of a climber.Flip over Kyra Condie’s appendages and find more proof: calluses not quite on the fingertips, not quite centered on the final pad of each digit.“Honestly, my hands are less ugly than people would think they are,” said Condie, one of four American climbers headed to the Tokyo Olympics. “People picture like torn apart, bloodied everywhere. That does happen, but it’s not like a daily occurrence.”Baseball players need bats and gloves, tennis players racquets, golfers their clubs.Climbers’ instruments are their hands.Hands are the main contact point to the only obstacle in the sport, a sheer wall freckled with holds set at an array of angles, some no wider than a fingertip.Strength, in muscle and skin, is paramount. A breakdown in either is disastrous.“The hands are our main tool,” U.S. Olympian Nathaniel Coleman said. “Every little muscle in our forearms, in our hands are essential for using our entire body to climb.”Serious climbing is a constant full-body workout hinged at the fingers.Those pullups most of us struggle to do more than a couple? Climbers do it from their fingertips, sometimes one handed — over and over again.They practice on hang boards bolted to walls, dangling by nothing but their fingers. Rest during a climb constitutes clinging to holds with hands and feet.Climbing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo this month will include three disciplines: lead, bouldering and speed.All three will take walnut-cracking hand strength.“Almost more important than anything else is your hands being able to have good finger strength, healthy fingers so you don’t pop a tendon or anything like that,” American Olympic climber Collin Duffy said. “Every single time you’re on the wall, you’re using your hands in some fashion.”The minutes and hours between those times on the wall are spent making sure their hands aren’t too battered to do it again.A football or basketball player might be able to tape up an injured digit and keep playing.Climbers don’t have that luxury. A skin breakdown could mean the end of a competition, a finger pulley injury up to a year on the shelf.No wonder climbers treat their hands like they have a pair of priceless vases at the end of their arms.“Imagine if you were an F1 driver and didn’t get to choose your tires, so next time you go out, you have completely burned out tires for the next race,” Condie said. “That’s kind of like what skin is. It’s like, OK, this time the track is wet, but you have no control over it at all.”Sweat is every climber’s enemy, so they coat their hands in chalk before every climb to prevent slippage. Some take it a step further, bringing battery-operated fans to dry their hands before attacking the wall.The problem: All the drying can lead to cracking.Lotions, balms and salves are essential to most climbers’ hand-care toolkits, but there is a fine line. Too soft and the callouses break down, maybe even break off.Soaking in water has the same effect, so climbers do dishes wearing rubber gloves or, better yet, leave it to someone else. Climbers have been known to wear rubber gloves in the shower before climbing. Find yourself soaking in a hot tub with a group of climbers and you’ll likely be the only person whose hands are in the water.Files, razors and sandpaper also are essential.Not for the nails. For the callouses.An imperfection on a callous can catch on a crystal in the rock or a sharp edge, so those have to be sanded down or trimmed off. Files and sandpaper can prevent cuts from opening up. Razors are good for trimming because fresh skin heals faster than callouses.Some climbers walk around with rocks in their pocket to try making their skin hard. One climber supposedly burned his fingertips on a hot tea kettle to make his skin harder.There are even reports of climbers immersing their hands in water and running an electrical current to cut down on excessive sweating.“People try control it as much as possible,” Condie said. “There are some interesting methods out there, but whatever it takes.”Those hands are a precious commodity in the climbing world.———For more AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics

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