White concerned about slopestyle course, more Sochi Olympics notes
Add Shaun White to the growing list of competitors who are concerned about conditions at the snowboard slopestyle course. "It's intimidating," says White, who will be doubling in Sochi in both the new slopestyle event and the snowboard halfpipe, in which he is a two-time defending champion. "Any time you step out onto a course, there's a certain amount of danger. Maybe this course might have a little more than others."
White is one of several Olympians to have suffered an injury while training on the course, jamming his wrist Tuesday. He's not expected to miss any time due to the injury. Finnish athlete Merika Enne was carried off on a stretcher after hitting her head. World champ Torstein Horgmo broke his collarbone in training Monday, though he has not ruled out competing anyway.
Once word got out what U.S. short track skater Emily Scott went through in order to qualify for her first Olympic team, donations started pouring in through Scott's Fund Me page that allowed 600 people to pitch in for Scott's expenses. A story in USA Today first spread the word about Scott going on food stamps after her funding was cut from $1,950 a month to $600 a month. Her father, Craig, a sign maker in Springfield, Mo., raised her while her mother was in prison.
Emily used some of the funding to fly Craig into Sochi for the Games. He will arrive on Feb. 10, the day of her first competition. "I am so grateful for every contribution," says Scott, who has written notes of thanks to acknowledge each contribution, from one dollar to a high of $5,000 from an Olympic alum in another sport. "When I compete for my country, it's really personal. I'm competing for every one of those people."
The U.S. short track team went through a painful reckoning in October 2012, when head coach Jae Su-chun and his assistant Jun Hyung-yeo resigned after allegations by several skaters on the team that the coaches engaged in abuse towards the skaters. U.S. team member Alyson Dudek turned the experience into a lesson for others. Competing in her second Olympics, Dudek has started an anti-bullying campaign, visiting elementary schools, middle schools and companies. "It was a real way to make something positive out of a negative situation," says Dudek, who won a bronze medal in the team relay event in Vancouver. "Everyone can learn to treat those around them with respect and decency."
Apolo Ohno may be retired from competition, but the most decorated short-track Olympian in history is neither out-of-sight, nor out-of mind for his U.S. teammates. He is an analyst for NBC here in Sochi and a frequent presence in the preparations of his old squad. "He's in touch with us pretty often," says J.R. Celski, Ohno's teammate in Vancouver. "He texts us, he encourages us, he builds us up. Just having him around is an inspiration because there's nobody who ever prepared better or accomplished more."
The U.S. women's hockey team gave notice of what the rest of the world can expect Tuesday, crushing Germany in a practice game 10-0. Hilary Knight and Briana Decker each scored twice for the squad that opens play against medal candidate Finland on Saturday.
The selection of figure skater Evgeni Plushenko to the Russian Olympic team may have raised a few eyebrows, but Patrick Chan, the three-time world champ from Canada, says the team made the right choice. "He has earned his spot here," says Chan. "You cannot teach experience. He has got something that not many other Russian skaters have." Plushenko was an Olympic silver medalist in 2002, a gold medalist in 2006 and won silver behind Evan Lysacek in 2010. He has rarely competed over the last eight years, except for major events. Competing for the lone berth available to Russian men at the Sochi Games, Plushenko finished second at the Russian Nationals this year behind Maxim Kovtun but was named to the team anyway.
Brother and sister Maia and Alex Shibutani are the first siblings to represent the U.S. in ice dancing, but the team has a history of sibling representation in pairs competition. Kim and Wayne Seybold were the most recent couple, placing tenth at the Calgary Games in 1988. Kitty and Peter Carruthers won a silver medal four years earlier in Sarajevo. But something was in the frozen water at the Innsbruck Games in 1964, when all three U.S. pair teams were sibling: Vivian and Ronald Joseph won a bronze medal, Julianne and Jerry Forheringill placed seventh, and Cynthia and Ronald Kauffman were eighth.
Veteran Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai said Tuesday he isn't content to stop with his record-tying seventh winter Olympic appearance. "I will try to get to an eighth Olympics," said Kasai, 41. "I feel certain I can compete for a medal here." On Jan. 11, Kasai became the oldest man to win a World Cup event when he won a large hill event in Bad Mittendorf, Austria. He won a silver medal in the team competition in Lillehammer, 20 years ago.
Russian luger Albert Demchenko is also making his seventh Olympic appearance in Sochi. Demchenko, 42, won one medal, a silver, in singles at the Turin Games in 2006.