Posted: Wednesday February 22, 2006 12:46PM; Updated: Wednesday February 22, 2006 1:06PM
A former Olympic wrestler, Jim Scherr has the U.S. team headed in the right direction.
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Jim Scherr took over as Chief Executive Officer of the United States Olympic Committee last May. Before that, he was a wrestler on the 1988 Olympic team and a three-time medalist at the World Wrestling Championships. He served as Executive Director of USA Wrestling and as Chief of Sport Performance at the USOC before taking his current post. SI.com talked to Scherr this week in Turin.
SI.com: Snowboarding has emerged as a sport very quickly over the last two Games. Is that a good trend toward the younger, hipper athletes who have the X Games connection in their DNA more than the Olympic connection?
Scherr: I think it's a very good trend. I think as the sport matures, the Olympic Games will become the pinnacle of competitive excellence in the sport. Obviously other competitions are great competitions and athletes place a lot of energy in those. But the sport is young enough, and the athletes understand what the Olympic Games are about and the platform that provides them as individuals and what it means to be part of the U.S. Olympic team. We love the athletes. They've really embraced the concept of being a part of that team.
SI.com: NBC's ratings haven't been great for these Games. Are people losing interest in the Olympics?
Scherr: I think it's specific to these Olympics, not how the public will react to Beijing or Vancouver. I think both will generate an unbelievable amount of interest in North America. Like NBC is, we're disappointed in some aspects of the response to these Games, but I think it's a function not of interest in the movement but of other factors, such as where NBC is positioned as a network right now, some of the original programming that's been thrown against these Games and the fact that some of the big-name athletes either didn't compete at the Games, in the case of Michelle Kwan, or have not produced early in the Games as we would have liked them to produce. We're pleased with NBC and the way they portray our team and the lengths they go to portray the Games in a positive light.
SI.com: What did you think of the unfortunate ending to Lindsey Jacobellis' competition?
Scherr: For her it was too bad. She may never be in that position again, and whether she was trying to center herself and get down the slope the best way or whether she was adding a flourish to her performance, she's the only one who can judge. But it will be difficult for her to be in that position again in Vancouver and have that opportunity again. I hope she does come back. But you can't be disappointed in an athlete who wins a medal.
SI.com: When you arrived, the USOC had had a revolving-door leadership for a number of years. What did you feel you needed to change?
Scherr: The first thing we needed to change was both the perception and the reality of what we were about and where we should be placing and driving our resources to our athletes and to our national governing bodies. So we started a campaign called "Athletes First" to return a greater share of our revenues and resources to our athletes and, in our thinking, place the needs of our athletes first.