Kevin Pearce

Q&A with Kevin Pearce as ‘The Crash Reel’ sets to air

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The HBO debut of “The Crash Reel,” a documentary on snowboarding and the sport’s growing risks, shouldn’t be anything new for Kevin Pearce.

He’s seen the film, he’s lived the film and he’s been asked (and asked and asked) about the film. The opportunity to watch it on TV at his parents’ home in “the middle of nowhere” in Vermont on Monday night (9 ET) is still exciting.

“Pretty badass,” as Pearce put it.

Pearce is the focus of the 1-hour, 49-minute chronological compilation of home movies, interviews and snowboard footage directed by the Oscar-nominated Lucy Walker.

While Pearce never reached the Olympics, the film is very much about the Games from the opening scene. Key dates are identified as “XXX days before the Vancouver Olympics,” such as Dec. 31, 2009, 49 days before the Games.

A six-second clip from that New Year’s Eve morning is played three times throughout the film. Pearce is shown on a halfpipe run in a red jacket and dark pants with people on a ski lift in the background. He attempts the sport’s new, bar-raising trick, the cab double cork (a twisting double back flip). He misses. His head hits the snow, face first, with a sickening thud.

The rest of the film dives into Pearce’s rivalry with Shaun White and emotionally steps through his rehab from a traumatic brain injury. Freeskier Sarah Burke, who died on the same halfpipe in a training accident in 2012, makes a few short but powerful appearances in the film.

We’ll hold off on further details to let viewers learn on their own, but it sufficiently earned its place at the Sundance Film Festival and SXSW.

Pearce took time to answer questions about the film and his future in a telephone interview.

Q: What did you hope to accomplish with this film?

Pearce: What I really wanted was mainly to spread the word and spread the awareness of what a traumatic brain injury entails because I never had any idea until I had to muscle through it and drive through all the hard stuff and come back from it. I really tried to show people what was involved in the whole process, the power of family. What a supportive family can do to help somebody who is suffering, how it shows a family can help you come back and recover from what you’re faced with.

Q: What did you learn from seeing the finished product?

Pearce: I think really what I learned from it is what’s possible in life. It was super helpful seeing where I was, seeing what I put friends and family through and where I was at the end. I’m still fighting, but I got through the hardest parts of it. I made my way back.

Q: The footage of your crash is shown a few times in the film. What do you think when you see it now?

Pearce: If I had a tiny bit more speed and a little more air time, I would have been fine. Someone says it in the film that it was a perfect storm. Everything lined up perfectly that one moment for everything to go completely wrong. Unlucky, how close I was to being perfectly fine.

It’s also hard to think about because what has happened since, and what has come of it. It’s hard to know how to look at it. Was it so bad, or was it good? I woke up this morning and was able to brush my teeth, and a lot of people can’t say that. I look at it both ways. How lucky I am and how unlucky I am.

Q: Have you been back to the scene of the crash?

Pearce: I went back to Park City twice, went the last two years for Sundance, but I haven’t gone down to the mountain yet. It wouldn’t do that much for me to go back there. It’s not like this thing I’ve got to get back up there and come back to that halfpipe. I don’t really need to go near or have any interest of going near that pipe.

Q: Are there any safety measures you would like to see taken in snowboarding?

Pearce: Not at all. These kids should be allowed to do whatever they want. That’s why snowboarding is so special is because there are no rules. There’s nobody telling you what to do. I think helmets should be mandatory in these competitions, but for the most part they are.

It would be very hard on me if (because of me) there become rules in snowboarding. It would feel like I changed the sport.

Q: What are you up to now, and what’s ahead in the future?

Pearce: Public speaking. I’ve been getting out and sharing my story and trying to spread the message of safety and traumatic brain injuries and to share what I’ve been through and try to help kids in that sense. I’ve been announcing the X Games and then also other events. It’s a good way to stay in the sport and stay active in snowboarding.

Q: Are you going to the Olympics in Sochi?

Pearce: I actually am going to Sochi. I am going and carrying the torch at opening ceremonies for Nike.

IOC will not enforce complete ban on Russia for Rio Olympics

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Maria Sharapova of the Russia Olympic tennis team carries her country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Olympic leaders stopped short Sunday of imposing a complete ban on Russia from the Rio de Janeiro Games, leaving individual global sports federations to decide which athletes should be cleared to compete.

The decision, announced after a three-hour meeting of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, came just 12 days before the Aug. 5 opening of the games.

“We had to balance the collective responsibility and the individual justice to which every human being and athlete is entitled to,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

The IOC rejected calls from the World Anti-Doping Agency and many other anti-doping bodies to exclude the entire Russian Olympic team following allegations of state-sponsored cheating.

Russia’s track and field athletes have already been banned by the IAAF, the sport’s governing body, a decision that was upheld Thursday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and was accepted by the IOC again on Sunday.

Calls for a complete ban on Russia intensified after Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer commissioned by WADA, issued a report Monday accusing Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing a vast doping program of its Olympic athletes.

McLaren’s investigation, based heavily on evidence from former Moscow doping lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, affirmed allegations of brazen manipulation of Russian urine samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, but also found that state-backed doping had involved 28 summer and winter sports from 2011 to 2015.

But the IOC board, meeting via teleconference, decided against the ultimate sanction, in line with Bach’s recent statements stressing the need to take individual justice into account.

“An athlete should not suffer and should not be sanctioned for a system in which he was not implicated,” Bach told reporters on a conference call after Sunday’s meeting.

Back acknowledged the decision “might not please everybody.”

“This is not about expectations,” he said. “This is about doing justice to clean athletes all over the world.”

Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov presented his case to the IOC board at the beginning of Sunday’s meeting, promising full cooperation with investigations and guaranteeing “a complete and comprehensive restructuring of the Russian anti-doping system.”

The IOC also rejected the application by Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, the 800-meter runner and former doper who helped expose the doping scandal in her homeland, to compete under a neutral flag at the games.

The IOC said Stepanova, now living in the United States, did not meet the criteria for running under the IOC flag and, because she had committed doping violations, did not satisfy the “ethical requirements” to compete in the games. However, the IOC added that it would invite her and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, to attend the games.

While deciding against an outright ban, the IOC said it was imposing tough eligibility conditions, including barring entry for the Rio Games of any Russian athlete who has ever been sanctioned for doping.

The IOC said it would accept the entry only of those Russian athletes who meet certain conditions set out for the 28 international federations to apply.

The federations “should carry out an individual analysis of each athlete’s anti-doping record, taking in account only reliable adequate international tests … in order to ensure a level playing field,” the IOC said.

The committee asked the federations to examine the information and names of athletes and sports implicated in the McLaren report. Any of those implicated should not be allowed into the games, it said.

The IOC said the federations would have to apply their own rules if they want to ban an entire Russian team from their events in Rio, as the IAAF has already done for track and field.

Russian entries must be examined and upheld by an expert from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the IOC said.

Russian athletes who are cleared for the games will be subjected to a “rigorous additional out-of-competition testing program.”

The IOC also reiterated its “serious concerns” about the weaknesses in the fight against doping, and called on WADA to “fully review their anti-doping systems.” The IOC said it would propose measures for more transparency and independence.

The decision for the IOC was loaded with geopolitical ramifications.

Never has a country been kicked out of the Olympics for doping violations. And Vladimir Putin‘s Russia is a sports powerhouse, a huge country seeking to reaffirm its status on the world stage, and a major player in the Olympic movement. Many international Olympic officials and federation leaders have close ties to Russia, which has portrayed the exclusion of its track athletes and calls for a complete ban as part of a political, Western-led campaign.

Putin, citing the U.S. and Soviet-led boycotts of the 1980 and 1984 Games, said the Olympic movement “could once again find itself on the brink of a division.” And former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev wrote an open letter to Bach on Friday to plead against a blanket ban.

Anti-doping leaders had argued that the extent of state-backed doping in Russia had tainted the country’s entire sports system, and the only way to ensure a level playing field was to bar the whole team, even if some innocent athletes will lose out.

Russia faces a possible ban from the Paralympic Games. Citing evidence in McLaren’s report of doping among Russian Paralympic athletes, the International Paralympic Committee said Friday it will decide next month whether to exclude the country from the Sept. 7-18 event in Rio.

MORE: Russia loses Olympic track and field ban appeal

Leaks, electrical outages found in Rio Olympic athletes village

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 23:  Preparations continue at the Olympic Athlete Village for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games as seen during a media tour of the venue on June 23, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
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RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Australian athletes will not move into their rooms at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics until serious plumbing, electrical and cleaning problems are fixed, with the troubled South American games opening in under two weeks.

Kitty Chiller, the head of the Australian delegation, said in a statement Sunday that team members “will not move into our allocated building” at the Athletes Village. She gave no hint of when they might. Teams from Britain and New Zealand were also reported to be having similar problems.

This comes as the sprawling 31-building village, which will house 18,000 athletes and officials at the height of the games, opened officially on Sunday with some athletes expected to arrive.

This is the latest problem for the troubled games, which have been hit by the Zika virus, water pollution and severe budget cuts.

The International Olympic Committee and local organizers held emergency talks Sunday, but did not reply immediately to emails from The Associated Press.

“We’re having plumbing problems, we’ve got leaking pipes,” Mike Tancred, the spokesman for the Australian team, said in an interview with AP. “We’ve got electrical problems. We’ve got cleaning problems. We’ve got lighting problems in some of the stairwells.”

He said more than 20 staff members have been unable to stay in the building, and said the first Australian athletes were to arrive Monday.

“We did a stress test on Saturday, turned on the taps and flushed the toilets, and water came flooding down the walls,” Tancred said.

Chiller listed the same problems, and added more.

“Water came down walls, there was a strong smell of gas in some apartments and there was ‘shorting’ in the electrical wiring,” she said. “We have been living in nearby hotels because the village is simply not safe or ready.”

She said teams from Britain and New Zealand had similar problems, which have been going on for at least a week.

The United States Olympic Committee acknowledged there were small problems.

“As is the case with every Games, we’re working with the local organizers to address minor issues and make sure the village is ready for team USA athletes,” spokesman Patrick Sandusky told AP.

Local reports said about 5 percent of the apartments had gas, water and electrical faults, and some were without toilet fixtures.

Scott Field, spokesman for the British team, declined to comment but acknowledged problems were being tackled.

Chiller said the IOC will ask local organizers to do stress tests “throughout the Olympic Village,” a process that could force major delays and require people living there now to relocate.

The 31-building compound contains tennis courts, soccer fields, seven swimming pools – with mountains and the sea as a backdrop – topped off by a massive dining-kitchen compound that’s as large as three football fields.

The 3,600 apartments are to be sold after the Olympics with some prices reaching $700,000. The development costs about $1.5 billion, built by the Brazilian billionaire Carlos Carvalho.

“From the exterior it looks like the Hilton Hotel,” Tancred said. “But inside it’s not finished.”

MORE: Ready or Not: Rio Olympics open doors at Athletes Village