Skaters call accusations against Chun “baseless”

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Less than a week after 14 current members of the U.S. short track team filed a code of conduct complaint with U.S. Speedskating the USOC that alleged abuse by head coach Jae Su Chun, nine teammates have released a statement calling the accusations “baseless” and “false.”

“We have never seen any abuse take place — physical, sexual, verbal or emotional — and we know these men are not capable of abuse,” the statement reads. “We truly believe that Jae Su is the most knowledgeable short track speedskating coach in the world and that he conducts himself ethically and with integrity in every way.”

The list of athletes who signed the statement includes Vancouver bronze medalists Lana Gehring and Kimberly Derrick, as well as Jessica Smith, John-Henry Krueger, Tamara Frederick, Cole Krueger, Eduardo Alvarez, Chris Creveling and Keith Carroll Jr.

The members who accuse Chun of abuse say he threw one skater into a wall and called female members “fat” and “disgusting.” The group is boycotting the national team and have requested arbitration so that Chun’s dismissal can be expedited before World Cup Team Trials begin Sept. 30 in Utah.

Gehring agrees that Chun pushes the team hard, but told the AP that he cares deeply about his skaters. The group concludes the statement by saying they plan on cooperating with the investigation and would like to “put this behind us and get back to focusing on what U.S. speedskaters do best — winning medals!”

We’ll see what kind of divide the outcome, whatever it happens to be, creates between teammates.

Syria-born Olympian takes advocacy role at U.N. refugee agency

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GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. refugee agency has chosen as a goodwill ambassador a Syrian teenage girl who helped save a boat carrying fellow refugees and later became an Olympic swimmer.

Yusra Mardini was appointed as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador on Thursday, joining other notables like actress Cate Blanchett and author Khaled Hosseini in the unpaid advocacy role.

UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said Mardini “represents the hopes, the fears and the incredible potential of the more than 10 million young refugees around the globe.”

Mardini and her sister Sarah jumped overboard and swam for hours alongside their overloaded boat to reach Greece from Turkey in 2015.

She swam on the first Refugee Olympic team in Rio last year and has discussed refugees’ challenges with leaders like Pope Francis and President Barack Obama.

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Rafael Nadal recreates famous 1992 Olympic cauldron lighting

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Rafael Nadal, owner of two Olympic gold medals, recently parroted arguably the most famous moment in Spanish Olympic history.

Nadal and Marc Lopez, the 2016 Olympic doubles champions, took up bows and arrows and joined archer Antonio Rebollo on Monday at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Stadium. It brought back memories of Rebollo’s unforgettable cauldron lighting from the only Olympics held in Spain.

Nadal is in Barcelona for an ATP Tour event as he prepares to vie for a 10th French Open title next month.

Rebollo, now 61 years old, was one of 200 hundred archers considered to light the cauldron in 1992. He learned that he was chosen for the role over four other finalists two hours ahead of time, according to an NBC Olympics profile in 1996.

The cauldron would be 195 feet away. Fearing Rebollo would miss the target, organizers instructed him to fire his arrow beyond the stadium walls. As the arrow soared, a technician lit the natural gas flame with a remote control.

The illusion worked. The true story wasn’t revealed for another 20 years.

“There were no fears,” Rebollo, a Barcelona native who contracted polio at age 8, told NBC two decades ago. “I was practically a robot. I focused on my positioning and reaching the target. That was all. … My feelings were taken from the people who described to me how they saw it. What they felt, their emotions, their cries. This is what made me realize what the moment actually meant.”

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