Shaun White flying high ahead of 2014 Games, more notebook
Both snowboarders Shaun White and Kelly Clarkson secured Winter X Games superpipe titles this year and are on pace to win more hardware at the Sochi Olympics just less than a year from now. Yet, their paths to the Games could not be more different.
White has made headlines, both good and bad, and he lit up YouTube after snipping his famed tomato topper down to size. In September, White was also charged with public intoxication and vandalism at a hotel in Nashville. And he attended the London Olympics with model Bar Refaeli, watching Michael Phelps win one of his gold medals at the pool.
Last summer, White, also an accomplished skateboarder, said he would like to compete in the Summer Olympics as well. However, the discipline of roller sports is only under consideration for admission to the 2020 Games -- assuming that wrestling doesn't work its way back in. At that news, White decided to dabble in slopestyle events, which will make their Olympic debut in Sochi. A snowboard-slopestyle double is still not out of the question for the stylish crossover star, because, he says, "I'm still finding my nirvana."
Kelly Clark took her sixth open title at Vail, and has been rolling more smoothly, at 29, than at any time in her career. In contrast to White, Clark remains the picture of what people would not expect a snowboarder to be. She speaks softly and deliberately, lacking the flash and charisma associated with her sport. She has become spiritual, and has trouble passing for a member of the sport she has ruled for a decade. She won gold at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, then took fourth in Turin, where, she says, "I could do the tricks, but I couldn't do them well. I wasn't paying attention to details." Even then, she almost sounded too rational -- and, in effect, too tenured, at just 22 -- to be a snowboard champ. But Clark came back four years later and used her maturity to her advantage, sneaking in for a bronze in Vancouver. Her gold medal is on display at her parents' pizza parlor in West Dover, Vermont. She says she has no desire for multi-million dollar endorsement deals. "I just want to leave the sport in a better place than it was when I got there," she said recently.
Both White and Clark are finding their piece of nirvana, and both are on pace for more hardware in Sochi, though their paths could not be more different.
Add one more bizarre protest of wrestling's pending exclusion from the Olympic Games starting in 2020: a two-time Olympic champion says he is going on a hunger strike. Armen Nazarian won golds in Greco-Roman events for different classes and different countries in different Olympics, but this is truly a different way to express discontent. Nazarian handily won all five matches in the 52-kilogram class at the 1996 Atlanta Games while competing for Armenia, then began protesting his lack of support from the Armenian government, threatening to swap citizenship if he didn't receive better financial help. He won the 58-kilogram class in Sydney four years later after switching to Bulgaria. The 38-year-old national coach was inducted into FILA's Hall of Fame in 2007. Nazarian didn't specify how long he would maintain his anti-caloric vigil, though he did say that all wrestling medals would be diminished if wrestling were dropped from the Olympics.
Strike one candidate from the list of sites hoping to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Swiss voters struck down a bill to fund a bid to hold the Games in Davos and St. Moritz, the Olympic host in 1928 and 1948. The referendum would have allocated 300 million Swiss francs (roughly $325 million) of the $2.5 billion targeted for the entire Olympic budget. Though two of three regions slated to host the Games approved the idea, a third rejected it. The no-vote may also strike a blow to Rene Fasel, a Swiss IOC member and head of the International Ice Hockey Federation, who is rumored to be a candidate for the IOC presidency this fall. The USOC has said it will not submit a bid to host an Olympics, winter or summer, before 2024.
Add Laurenne Ross' name to the list of breakout U.S. alpiners in 2013. Ross, 24, took second in the downhill at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany over the weekend to earn her first World Cup podium. Ross finished second behind Tina Maze of Slovenia. The win gave Maze 2,024 overall points, a new record for a world cup season. She had been close to podium finishes before, taking fourth in a Super-G in Tarvisio, Italy in 2011 and fifth in St. Anton, Austria. Born in Edmonton, Ross was wearing skis before her third birthday, and her family moved to Oregon when she was seven. An amateur musician and photographer, Ross stood out before this season thanks to her nose ring and the dreadlocks she has since cut off.
The Ivy League Fencing championships would be an odd place for sporting drama. But with a title on the line, Penn and host Harvard went to the final touch with the match tied at 13 bouts apiece, and the decisive bout, a foil contest, even at four touches each. The next touch would either make Harvard outright champs or give Penn a share of the title. Crimson freshman Jerry Chang scored the dramatic winning point against Quaker sophomore Jason Chang, his brother.
USA Luge announced on Wednesday that Ron Rossi would be stepping down as executive director. Rossi became the first U.S. luger to earn a top-ten place at the Olympics, when he and doubles partner Doug Bateman took ninth at the '84 Games in Sarajevo. The U.S. team took some positive steps under Rossi, earning silver and bronze medals in doubles competition at both the 1998 and 2002 Olympics. Erin Hamlin then took gold in the women's competition at the world championships in Lake Placid in 2009. But the team's performances have not improved over the past few years -- the U.S. still does not have an Olympic luge medal in singles competition -- and USA Luge lost its primary sponsor, Verizon, in 2011 after a 30-year association.