TIME Athletes

Here Are 8 Bizarre Yet Beautiful Photos of Women’s Rhythmic Gymnastics

Gymnasts are known for their incredible flexibility, but rhythmic gymnasts take it to new levels, wrapping their bodies around ribbons, clubs, balls and hoops—all with a dazzling smile.

The secret to their rubber-band like contortions? Hours and hours of training, including more time spent in splits—hanging from bars or stretched across foam blocks—than the rest of us would consider humane. These athletes, competing at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, represent the eight top-scoring qualifiers in mind-bending acrobatic routines in the individual all-around finals.

TIME South Africa

Final Arguments Begin in Oscar Pistorius Trial

Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius leaves court in Pretoria, South Africa in his ongoing murder trial on July 7, 2014. Jerome Delay—AP

In the final arguments of Oscar Pistorius' sensational trial, prosecutors say the Olympic athlete intentionally shot and murdered girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp

(PRETORIA, South Africa) — The chief prosecutor in Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial said Thursday that the double-amputee athlete’s lawyers have floated more than one theory in a dishonest attempt to defend against a murder charge for his killing of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel made the allegation during final arguments in the sensational trial in a Pretoria courthouse, where the fathers of the Olympic runner and Steenkamp, a model and television personality, were in court for the first time since the trial began in early March. They sat at opposite ends of a long bench in the gallery.

Nel said a criminal trial was a “blunt instrument for digging up the truth” but that he was confident of his case. He then said defense lawyers had argued that Pistorius acted in self-defense, fearing an intruder was in the house, but also raised the possibility that the once-celebrated athlete was not criminally responsible, accidentally shooting Steenkamp through a closed toilet door because he was “startled.”

“It’s two defenses that you can never reconcile,” Nel said.

The prosecution has argued that Pistorius intentionally shot Steenkamp before dawn on Feb. 14, 2013 after a quarrel. The defense has previously contended that he fired by mistake, thinking he was about to be attacked by an assailant in the toilet and that Steenkamp was in the bedroom.

In addition to the murder charge, Pistorius faces three separate gun-related charges, one of which stems from his alleged firing of a shot in a crowded restaurant called Tashas in Johannesburg, months before he killed Steenkamp. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

On Thursday, some of the state’s written arguments as well as transcripts of past testimony appeared on screens in the courtroom. One section questioned Pistorius’ defense case:

“Is it putative self-defense? Is it an act of sane automatism? Did he have criminal capacity to act? Or was it all an accident as in Tashas Restaurant where he had the gun in his hand and it purportedly discharged itself?”

Because South Africa has no trial by jury, Judge Thokozile Masipa will decide with the help of two legal assistants if Pistorius committed murder, is guilty of a negligent killing, or if he made a tragic error and should be acquitted. The runner faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder, and also would be sent to prison for years if guilty of murder without premeditation or culpable homicide.

Earlier, Masipa told Nel and chief defense lawyer Barry Roux that they had only until the end of Friday to complete their final arguments in court.

“Unless, of course, you want to work on a Saturday and perhaps Sunday, after church,” she said, smiling.

___

Imray reported from Stellenbosch, South Africa.

TIME

New Clinton Docs Disparage Ginsburg, Underscore Security Concerns at Atlanta Olympics

Clinton Global Initiative America Meetings Begin In Chicago
Former President Bill Clinton listens as Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks to guests at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on June 13, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Among other revelations in the newly-released papers, the White House warned of the Supreme Court candidate's "halting speech" and "laconic nature" in one memo

The latest trove of previously-unreleased documents from the Clinton White House reveal the administration’s candid and at times unflattering assessment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg before her confirmation to the Supreme Court.

The memo, drafted by then-White House Associate Counsel Ron Klain to David Gergen, lists Ginsburg’s defense of the American Civil Liberties Union and “her failure to make eye contact, her halting speech, her “laconic” nature” as potential “performance pitfalls” for her in Senate confirmation hearings. It also includes the underlined warning that, “Judge Ginsburg views the White House’s interest and her interests as being at odds with each other.”

“She sees us as having a stake in presenting her as a moderate and in getting along well with the Senate; she sees her interests as ‘being herself,’ preserving her ‘dignity,’ and promoting her ‘independence,'” the memo continued.

The document is part of the latest batch of memos from the Clinton administration that have been released by the Clinton Library over the past several months. Also in this release is a memo from Klain outlining the subjects President Bill Clinton should bring up and which to avoid in a conversation with soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Also of note is the multiple-choice memo to Clinton seeking his preferences for a planned trip to Spain, Poland, Romania and Denmark, and a White House memo outlining contingency planning for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

Bonus: With this check mark, President Bill Clinton began the process of nominating Sonia Sotomayor to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Clinton Library

The Ginsburg memo:

The Breyer memo:

The Olympics memo:

The trip planning memo:

TIME Sports

Pregnant Olympic Runner Finishes 800-Meter Race

A pregnant Alysia Montano runs in the opening round of the women's 800 meter run during day 2 of the USATF Outdoor Championships at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, California on on June 26, 2014.
A pregnant Alysia Montano runs in the opening round of the women's 800 meter run during day 2 of the USATF Outdoor Championships at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, California on on June 26, 2014. Ezra Shaw—Getty Images

The crowd cheered as she crossed the finish line

Alysia Montano ran an 800-meter race at the U.S. Track and Field Championships on Thursday while 34 weeks pregnant.

The five-time national champion posted a time of 2 minutes and 32.12 seconds, nearly 35 seconds shy of her personal best of 1:57.34 from 2010, according to the Associated Press.

The 28-year-old Olympian received approval from her doctor to race. By running, Montano says she hopes to clear up any misconceptions people have about running while pregnant.

“What I found out mostly was that exercising during pregnancy is actually much better for the mom and the baby…I did all the things I normally do…I just happened to be pregnant. This is my normal this year,” Montano said.

The American Pregnancy Association encourages women to exercise during pregnancy: “Being active with 30 minutes of exercise on most or all days can benefit your health during pregnancy. The important note is that you want to seek to be active and get your blood flowing.”

The relaxed pace is something Montano will likely blow past when her doctor gives the thumbs up to run again after the baby is born.

 

TIME olympics

Olympic Swimmer Amy Van Dyken Rouen Severs Spine in ATV Accident

Denver Broncos side line reporter for 850 KOA Amy Van Dyken. Reporting on the Broncos vs the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, October 7th, 2007 at Invesco Field. Andy Cross / The Denver Post
Amy Van Dyken reporting on the Broncos vs the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, October 7th, 2007 at Invesco Field. Andy Cross--Denver Post via Getty Images

The six-time Olympic champ was injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident on Friday and was airlifted to a Scottsdale, Ariz., hospital

Six-time Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken Rouen was injured in an all-terrain vehicle accident in Arizona on Friday that severed her spine.

The champion swimmer was airlifted to Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center after the ATV she was driving hit a curb in a parking lot and threw her down a drop-off that was thought to be between 5 to 7 feet. She reportedly told paramedics that she couldn’t move her toes or feel anything touching her legs. Van Dyken Rouen’s husband — former Denver Broncos player Tom Rouen — was with her at the time of the accident and told authorities that his wife hadn’t been drinking.

According to the Associated Press, a letter from the Van Dyken and Rouen families said that the 46-year-old swimmer had severed her spinal cord at the T11 vertebrae and that the broken vertebrae had come within millimeters of piercing her aorta.

Van Dyken Rouen made her name at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where she became the first U.S. female athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympic Games. (She snagged the top prize in the 50-meter freestyle and 100 butterfly events and was part of the winning relay teams in the 400 free and 400 medley.) Four years later in Sydney, Van Dyken Rouen won two more gold medals when she competed with the winning U.S. relay teams for the 400 free and 400 medley.

“The USA Swimming family is devastated to learn of Amy Van Dyken’s unfortunate accident this weekend,” said the national governing body for competitive swimming in a statement on their website. “We’re happy to hear that she escaped and is now in great care. That she is already ‘acting like her typical spunky, boisterous, ebullient self’ shows she’s on a great path. Amy is a champion who has proven throughout her life that she is a fighter who takes on challenges and comes out on top. We know Amy will tackle her rehabilitation with vigor and be back on her feet sooner rather than later.”

Despite the severity of the accident, Van Dyken Rouen has been posting photos to social media from her hospital bed, including a snap of artwork made by her niece and nephew, along with the hashtag #hostpitalsSuck.

 

TIME South Africa

Psychiatrist Says Pistorius Has Anxiety Disorder

The psychiatrist called as a defense witness on Monday in the murder trial of paralympian Oscar Pistorius said childhood events, including the loss of his lower legs and late mother's habit of sleeping with a gun, are linked to his "escalating" anxiety levels

A psychiatrist called as a defense witness in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial said Monday that the South African Olympian has an anxiety disorder that affects how he responds to perceived threats.

Dr. Merryll Vorster said events in Pistorius’ childhood, like the amputation of his lower legs and his late mother’s paranoid habit of sleeping with a gun under her pillow, contributed to his “escalating levels of anxiety,” the Associated Press reports.

Pistorius is on trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who he shot early on Valentines’ Day morning last year. Pistorius says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder. Prosecutors say he intentionally murdered Steenkamp during an argument.

Vorster testified that Pistorius, the double-amputee who became famous as “Blade Runner,” had a fear of crime, and that his amputated limbs caused him to respond to threats differently than other people. She said that he would more likely try to “fight” a perceived intruder rather than run away, because his stumps make it difficult to flee. “Overall, Mr. Pistorius appears to be a mistrustful and guarded person,” she said.

On cross-examination, the chief prosecutor asked Vorster if someone with Pistorius’s anxiety condition and access to guns would be a danger to society; Vorster answered yes. Following the psychiatrist’s testimony, the chief prosecutor requested that Pistorius be placed under psychiatric observation, but Judge Thokozile Masipa has not yet ruled on the request.

[AP]

TIME 2016 Summer Olympics

Olympic Committee: No Truth To Rumors About Moving 2016 Games To London

The International Olympic Committee flatly denied rumors circulating in the British press that the 2016 Summer Olympics may be moved from Brazil to London because of construction delays in host city Rio de Janeiro

A spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee flatly denied Friday rumors circulating in the British press that London had been approached about taking over the 2016 Summer Olympics from Brazil.

“Not a shred of truth to it,” IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told the Associated Press in an email. “Simply a non-starter –totally without foundation and totally unfeasible.”

The London Evening Standard reported earlier Friday that London, which hosted the 2012 Olympics but has already begun dismantling or converting some of the sporting venues, “has been secretly asked” to take over.

Brazil, which is also hosting the FIFA World Cup this summer, has drawn criticism for massive construction delays and other issues. ICO vice president John Coates said last week the country’s preparations were “the worst I have ever experienced,” but he also said there was no “plan B.”

[AP]

TIME Athletes

Olympian Tyson Gay Suspended for Doping, Returns Silver Medal

FILE: U.S. Sprinter Tyson Gay Receives One-Year Ban For Doping
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has announced that U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay has received a one-year suspension for testing positive for an anabolic steroid May 2, 2014. Christian Petersen—Getty Images

Tyson Gay, the American 100 meter record holder, has been suspended from competing for one year and has been forced to return his 2012 Olympic silver medal. Gay is tied for the second fastest man in history

U.S. sprinter Tyson Gay has been suspended for one year and forced to return his 2012 Olympic silver medal after testing positive for a banned substance, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said Friday.

The USADA said Gay accepted a one-year suspension that began June 23, 2013. He was also disqualified from all results since July 15, 2015, according to Reuters, when he first used the product that contained a prohibited substance.

Tied for the second fastest man in history, Gay holds the American record for the 100 meter race. At the 2012 London Olympics, he won the silver medal with the U.S. 4×100 meter relay team.

He admitted in July that he failed a doping test, and the USADA said his punishment was reduced because he cooperated with their investigation. He’ll be eligible to compete, including in future Olympics, beginning in June.

“We appreciate Tyson doing the right thing by immediately withdrawing from competition once he was notified, accepting responsibility for his decisions, and fully and truthfully cooperating with us in our ongoing investigation into the circumstances surrounding his case,” USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart said in a statement.

TIME Crime

Pistorius’ Tears Aren’t Necessarily a Sign of Innocence

SAFRICA-JUSTICE-CRIME-PISTORIUS
South African Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius reacts as he listens to evidence by a pathologist during his trial in court in Pretoria on April 7, 2014. THEMBA HADEBE—AFP/Getty Images

The famous athlete might be crying and vomiting on the stand, but experts say domestic abusers are notoriously good at showing remorse

Oscar Pistorius’ testimony is hard to watch. The South African Olympic “Blade Runner” sobs through his story of the night he killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentines Day 2013. He retches when he sees pictures of her injuries and cries and sweats through his clothing during his testimony. He seems overwhelmed with regret for shooting Steenkamp through the bathroom door that night, even though he says he only shot her because he thought she was an intruder.

But for the millions of people following the trial, his behavior raises a deeply uncomfortable thought: could someone who seems so viscerally distraught also be a calculating murderer?

Under South African law, Pistorius’ intent to kill could mean the difference between life in prison and a reduced sentence. Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure what went through another person’s head at a particular moment, and the question of intent may never be answered for certain, no matter how much evidence is brought up in court.

The optics were bad for Pistorius as the prosecution laid out their case in the first part of the trial. He has admitted to being passionate about guns, and his friends say he had a short temper. His texts with Steenkamp sounded controlling and jealous, and his ex-girlfriend said he was a jerk. And, on the night of the killing, neighbors said they heard the sounds of a screaming argument before the gunshots.

Then again, there’s a real pathos to Pistorius’s story, if he’s telling the truth. Pistorius might have been a controlling cad, but he didn’t have a history of violence against women. Pistorius’ fear of intruders doesn’t seem fabricated, especially given the crime levels in South Africa and his physical disability. And it’s easy to imagine how a half-asleep, trigger-happy man might panic and shoot, especially when he did not have his prosthetic legs on and felt he couldn’t run (Pistorius maintains he walked on his stumps to the bathroom.)

Most of all, Pistorius’ anguish on the stand is so visceral, it seems impossible he could be lying; crocodile tears are one thing, but repeatedly vomiting in a bucket is another. But look past his weeping, and the raw facts already presented raise significant doubts. Steencamp was in the bathroom behind a locked door in the middle of the night when she was shot. Experts say that domestic abuse victims tend to lock themselves in small spaces when they feel threatened, in order to create a barrier against their attacker. Pistorius said he was “besotted” with Steenkamp, but in text messages Steenkamp said she was “scared” of him.

And those outbursts of grief in the courtroom? Experts say domestic abusers tend to show a lot of strong emotions as they manipulate their victims, so they’re used to turning their feelings on and off.

“If they were robots, nobody would date them or be with them,” said Cindy Southworth, a Vice President at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “They’re able to display a lot of human emotion, but research shows they’re always in control.”

Southworth says that Pistorius’ courtroom theatrics are consistent with the “compelling and calculated remorse” she sees from other abusers who are being held accountable, and that plenty of abusers kill their partners even when they’ve never used violence before. “There are many, many dead victims who were killed the first time they were struck,” she said. “Middle class offenders, loving family members, no police reports, then she’s dead.”

It’s tempting to believe Pistorius’ story of psychological horror and mistaken identity, since it seems almost like something out of a Greek tragedy–a sports hero doomed by his one vulnerability. But no matter how many times he pukes in a bucket, the story of a controlling gun-lover, a loud argument, and a dead woman is one we’ve heard before.

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