Seth Wescott

Olympic champion Seth Wescott’s van collides with moose

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Two-time Olympic snowboardcross gold medalist Seth Wescott walked away uninjured after his 2002 Volkswagen Eurovan struck a moose on a Maine road Thursday.

The moose collided into the passenger side of Wescott’s van around 1 a.m., according to reports.

“It did roughly $3,000 to $4,000 worth of damage,” Lt. David Rackliffe of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department told the Bangor (Maine) Daily News. “It appears that the moose actually ran into him.”

Despite the damage, Wescott, 37, managed to drive the rest of the way home, according to the newspaper. The Maine native posted this on his Facebook page:

“Welcome home to Maine.. Now here is a moose in your windshield to mess up your night.. Home safe but it looks like the eurovan is gonna have an insurance vacation at the VW garage.. Damn it..”

Apparently car-moose collisions are becoming a bit of an epidemic in the area, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Rackliffe said Wescott’s accident continues a busy summer of car-moose crashes in Franklin County.

“We actually did a couple of press releases on that [situation earlier this summer],” Rackliffe said. “From mid-June through mid-July, between us and state police who cover northern Franklin County, we documented more than 22 car-moose crashes in that roughly 30-day period.”

While there are plenty of moose in western Maine, Rackliffe termed the rash of crashes “extraordinarily high.”

Wescott is one of three Olympians trying to become the first American man to win the same Winter Olympic event three straight times (Bonnie Blair is the only U.S. woman to do it). He won the first two Olympic snowboardcross competitions in Sochi and Vancouver. Fellow snowboarder Shaun White (halfpipe) and speedskater Shani Davis (1,000 meters) also won in 2006 and 2010.

Wescott, if he makes the Olympic team, would be the last of the three to make the attempt. Men’s snowboardcross in Sochi is on Feb. 17, five days after Davis’ 1,000 and six days after White’s halfpipe.

Wescott underwent “a complete reconstruction” of his left ACL in April, according to the Portland (Maine) Press Herald. He fell into a crevasse while filming with Warren Miller for L.L. Bean.

“It allows me to start at ground zero and build myself up,” Wescott told the newspaper in May. “I know it’s going to be tight, but I know it’s entirely possible (to make it back for Sochi).”

Wescott had reconstructive surgery on his right knee in 2001 and tore a pectoral muscle in 2012.

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Kerri Walsh Jennings’ next partner is a familiar one

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Kerri Walsh Jennings is slated to play with with 2008 Olympian Nicole Branagh this summer, after she and Olympic bronze medal teammate April Ross split last month.

Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic champion with Misty May-Treanor before that bronze in Rio, and Branagh, who made the Beijing Games quarterfinals with Elaine Youngs, are entered in an FIVB World Tour event in Croatia the last week of June.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are both 38 years old and briefly paired in 2010 when May-Treanor was uncertain about making a run for the London Olympics. When May-Treanor told Walsh Jennings she was all-in for London, Walsh Jennings split from Branagh.

Walsh Jennings and Branagh are hoping to play together through the World Tour Finals in late August, according to Volleyball Magazine.

That includes the world championships in Vienna, Austria, in late July and early August.

It’s not known if they will have the combined ranking points to earn an outright worlds spot. They could also receive a wild card for worlds. Entries will be announced next month.

Walsh Jennings, a mother of three, has said she hopes to play in the 2020 Olympics at age 41, when she will be older than any previous Olympic beach or indoor volleyball player, according to Olympic historians.

Branagh returned to competition this year after a one-year break to have her second child. She has played few international events since 2012 and last won internationally in 2010 (with Walsh Jennings).

Ross, an Olympic silver and bronze medalist and 2009 World champion, is now partnered with Lauren Fendrick, who played with Brooke Sweat in Rio. Ross, 34, said she will figure out her long-term partner plans for Tokyo 2020 after this season.

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Catching up with Ross Powers

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Ross Powers, now 38 years old and 15 years removed from his Olympic snowboarding title, is still out with halfpipe riders on the snow five days per week.

The difference now is that Powers is coaching. He runs the snowboarding program at Stratton Mountain School in Vermont, where he graduated from in 1997.

Powers spoke with OlympicTalk before last season, reflecting on 20 years of snowboarding in the Olympics, Shaun White and how he likes coaching.

OlympicTalk: The PyeongChang Winter Games will mark 20 years since snowboarding’s debut in Nagano. What was it like competing in the first Olympic halfpipe?

Powers (who won bronze in Nagano at age 19): It seemed kind of like a regular World Cup. We were up in the mountains. At the time, it was a really good halfpipe, but we ended up competing in some bad weather, some rain. I didn’t realize until I left Japan and got home how big the Olympics were. But looking back, it was a special time. And I really learned from the ’98 Olympics, like if I get this chance again, I’m going to go there, I’m going to do it all. I’m going to go to Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremonies, watch as many events as I can and just make the most out of the Games.

OlympicTalk: The Nagano halfpipe was about half the size of today’s superpipes (394 feet long with 11 1/2-foot walls vs. 590 feet with 22-foot walls in Sochi). Could today’s snowboarders compete with you guys back in 1998?

Powers: It was so different. At the time, I want to say it was the biggest pipe we rode, but compared to today’s standards, it’s small. The weather was tricky. I think a lot of those guys [today] could ride it, but it’s so much different than today’s halfpipe for sure.

OlympicTalk: In 2002, when you led a U.S. men’s halfpipe medal sweep, the rider who just missed the Olympic team was a 15-year-old Shaun White. What do you remember about him?

Powers: You kind of knew he was going to be the next guy. Where he took our sport and certain tricks. One thing that really impressed me about him is he’ll train really hard for an event, show up, even if the conditions are bad, he’s planned this trick he wants to do, and he’ll try it no matter what. Most of the time he’ll give it a go and land it. That actually hurt him in Russia [White attempted but couldn’t perfect the YOLO Flip 1440 in Sochi] because he probably could have stepped down a notch, gotten a medal and maybe even won the event.

OlympicTalk: Did Shaun ever beat you before you retired?

Powers: I had my run from 1998, ’99, ’00, ’01, all those times that I was doing really well. I tried to make the 2006 Olympics in Italy. I was the alternate, so I just missed that. He was definitely beating me up through those times.

OlympicTalk: Did you travel to the Torino Olympics as an alternate?

Powers: I did, yeah. I traveled over there and actually watched my buddy [Seth] Wescott win the gold in boarder cross. That night, he was like, you should try boarder cross. That kind of got me into doing that my next few years after that.

[Editor’s Note: Powers almost made the 2010 Olympic team in snowboard cross, even finishing third in a December 2009 World Cup.]

OlympicTalk: Which is tougher, coaching or competing?

Powers: I would say it is tougher coaching than competing. You just have so many responsibilities and so much work. The nice thing about coaching, though, compared to competing, is you can kind of push yourself and have fun [riding] on certain days but then also sit back and really work with the athletes on all other days. So when you’re feeling it, you can push yourself. So it’s not like an athlete, where you have to push yourself.

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