Shaun White

Video: Shaun White talks Sochi Olympics, hair on TODAY

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The Sochi Games are more than 200 days away, but Shaun White is already consumed with the Olympics — even in his dreams.

The two-time reigning snowboard halfpipe gold medalist talked about his preparation with TODAY on Wednesday morning.

“Everything around my life right now is focused on the Olympics,” White said. “It’s a really good feeling that it’s coming up. I think I’m prepared.”

White will have to work twice as hard at his third Olympics. He’s expected to not only try to defend his halfipe crown but also go for gold in a new event, snowboard slopestyle. Let White describe it.

“It’s basically a series of jumps in one run and some rail features that you slide on,” he said. “And you make your way down and you basically do as many tricks as you can on those jumps. It’s like, you know, the new thing.”

White finished fifth in slopestyle at this year’s Winter X Games. The winner was Canadian Mark McMorris, 19, profiled in a January Rolling Stone article titled, “Is Mark McMorris the next Shaun White?” White was 19 when he won his first Olympic gold in 2006.

TODAY asked White if was one of the favorites for slopestyle gold in Sochi.

“I’m all right at it, yeah,” he said, humbly.

White was on the New York set with his new, clean-cut hairstyle. White said his previous flying tomato locks were 12 to 13 inches long. He had them cut in December for Locks of Love charity, which provides wigs for children with hair loss due to medical conditions.

“It was a tough call, but it was a good cause,” he said. “A lot of weight (gone). I can go higher now in the halfpipe.”

White also talked about how he comes up with new gravity-defying tricks.

“It’s basically tricks that are based off of other tricks,” he said. “I recently was dreaming about snowboarding. I thought of this new rotation to put on an existing trick that I already have. It’s random, mostly by mistake I’d say. You’re setting out to do something and by accident you create a new trick.”

So White’s even got the Games on his mind while he sleeps. Is he feeling the pressure?

“A little bit, yeah, but I like that,” he said. “It’s something to strive for, to live up to.”

Russian athletes to learn English before Sochi Olympics

What to watch at Drake Relays, Penn Relays

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Olympic gold medalists ramp up their track and field seasons at the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold this weekend.

Athletes are working toward the U.S. Championships in June and the world championships in August.

First, the historic Penn Relays will air on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold on Friday (5:30-6:30 p.m. ET) and Saturday (12:30-3 p.m. ET).

USA vs. The World in men’s and women’s 4x100m, 4x400m and sprint medley relays will air live on Saturday from Franklin Field in Philadelphia. A full schedule is here.

The U.S. teams are led by Olympic relay champions English Gardner and Natasha Hastings. The full roster is here.

Rio Olympic rematches highlight the individual-event fields at the Drake Relays in Des Moines on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold from 3-5 p.m ET on Saturday. A full schedule is here.

Perhaps no field is deeper than the 100m hurdles. World-record holder Keni Harrison takes on Rio silver and bronze medalists Kristi Castlin and Nia Ali, plus 2008 Olympic champion Dawn Harper-Nelson.

The 110m hurdles contingent is strong as well. It features the last two Olympic champions, Jamaican Omar McLeod and American Aries Merritt, plus 2013 World champion David Oliver.

Grenada’s Kirani James and American LaShawn Merritt, who earned silver and bronze in Rio, go head-to-head again in the 400m at Drake.

The men’s 1500m is headlined by Rio Olympic 800m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy and London Olympic 1500m silver medalist Leo Manzano.

Rio bronze medalist Jenny Simpson races individually for the first time this year in the women’s 1500m.

That field also includes New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin, who gained fame of her own in Rio. Hamblin and American Abbey D’Agostino fell in an Olympic 5000m heat and helped each other make it to the finish line. Both were praised for their sportsmanship.

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IOC president unsure whether esports should be considered sport

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Esports are gaining momentum in the international sports movement, but they are not close to becoming an Olympic sport.

“We are not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport, with regard to physical activity and what it needs to be considered sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said Tuesday, according to insidethegames. “We do not see an organization or a structure that will give us confidence, or guarantee, that in this area the Olympic rules and values of sport are respected and in place, and that the implementation of these rules are monitored and secured.”

The first clear step (of many) to become an Olympic sport is for the IOC to recognize the sport’s international governing body.

Esports will be added as a medal sport to the Asian Games in 2022, and has been praised by LA 2024 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman, but it is not yet IOC recognized.

“We are watching it, we see the differences, we see the lack of organisation,” Bach said, according to the report. “But we also see the high engagement of youth in esports. Therefore, we have to carefully consider how this could be consolidated.”

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