Dmitry Chernyshenko

Sochi Organizing Committee chief addresses Olympic issues on TODAY (video)

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Dmitry Chernyshenko, the head of the Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee, discussed the city’s readiness to host the Games, security and Russia’s anti-gay law among other topics in a TODAY interview Thursday.

“Of course we are ready,” Chernyshenko, 45, told Matt Lauer. “We already successfully tested all our competition venues during the most extensive test event season last winter. It was 22 international level World Cup sports championships, and the athletes were all happy with what they’ve seen.”

Some U.S. athletes have been in Sochi this week for more venue testing and have seen the power go out multiple times.

Of Russia’s anti-gay law, Chernyshenko said athletes will not be arrested if they march with a rainbow pin or speak in a press conference about gay rights.

“What else can I add? My president already several times expressed the guarantees on behalf of the state leaders that there will be no discrimination, whether by race, religion or sexual orientation,” Chernyshenko said. “We organizers keep social inclusivity a key for our Games. Moreover, the rainbow color is not exclusively belongs to someone. For example, our official uniforms for Games organizers is full of rainbow color.”

Protests or rallies, banned around Games time by Russian president Vladimir Putin in August, are a different matter.

“In accordance to Olympic Charter, rule No. 50, any propaganda or any demonstrations is prohibited during the Games,” Chernyshenko said.

The Sochi organizing president repeated that these will be “the safest Games ever.”

“Because we understand from the very beginning of our successful campaign that the safety is a key priority of the organizers,” he said. “Terrorism, it’s a global threat. Take Boston for example. This is an illustration that terrorism has no boundaries.”

Chernyshenko also repeated that U.S. and Russian officials have collaborated on security plans and that military security will not be dressed in standard uniforms but with a more festive look.

As for the Games themselves, Chernyshenko looked forward to one potential matchup in men’s hockey.

“The most desirable scenario in Russia we are looking for is Russia and USA in the final, and Russia win,” Chernyshenko said, adding a thank you to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for NHL players returning to the Olympics for a fifth straight time.

The U.S. and Russia are scheduled to play on the second Saturday of the Olympics but could also meet in the playoff round if both advance.

Finally, Lauer asked Chernyshenko how to pronounce the name of the host city.

“So-chee,” not So-she, he said.

Photos: Olympic torch blasts off into space aboard Russian rocket

U.S. skier Laurenne Ross out months with knee injury

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Laurenne Ross, the second-best U.S. speed racer behind Lindsey Vonn the last two years, suffered a right knee injury in a U.S. Championships crash on Monday and won’t be able to ski for at least two months, according to her social media.

“Further analysis is required to figure out exactly what is wrong, but I will not be skiing for at least the next couple months,” was posted on Ross’ Instagram. “I will keep you all updated when the time comes.”

Ross, 28, had a promising season, with seven World Cup top-10 finishes. She was fifth in the world championships downhill and fourth in the Olympic test event downhill in South Korea.

Ross has come back from injury before — a fractured pelvis in December 2006, a torn left ACL in 2008, at least five left shoulder dislocations and multiple broken fingers.

She made her first Olympic team in Sochi, where she was 11th in the downhill.

“I had many ups and downs, but am so thankful to have made it this far in my career with all the love and support that surrounds me,” was posted on Ross’ Instagram. “I will tack this on to my list of injuries, move on, and come back stronger.”

Ross is the second U.S. speed racer to suffer major injury in a crash this month. Breezy Johnson suffered a tibial plateau fracture in her left leg in the World Cup Finals downhill.

Ross, Vonn and Johnson, plus four-time Olympic medalist Julia Mancuso and World Cup podium finishers Stacey Cook and Jacqueline Wiles will likely all be vying for Olympic downhill places next season. Mikaela Shiffrin could try, too.

A nation can enter no more than four women per race at the Olympics.

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MORE: Mikaela Shiffrin eyes speed events in 2018

After a fun and wonderful season I am so sad to announce that yesterday, at US Nationals, I sustained an injury to my right knee. Further analysis is required to figure out exactly what is wrong, but I will not be skiing for at least the next couple months. I will keep you all updated when the time comes. I crossed so many finish lines this year — some with a smile and some without — but as I look back I can breathe deeply, because I have no regrets. It was a season for learning, for friendship, and for ambition. I had many ups and downs, but am so thankful to have made it this far in my career with all the love and support that surrounds me. I will tack this on to my list of injuries, move on, and come back stronger. I can't wait to step up to the challenges that lay ahead of me, and I couldn't do it without all of your support. Thank-you so much for being there, through thick and through thin, through the wins, the losses, the injuries, and the joy 🙏 I will be back 👊

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U.S. gymnasts give emotional testimony about sexual abuse

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Retired star gymnasts testified before Congress on Tuesday that they were sexually abused by USA Gymnastics officials.

Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist, and three-time national champion rhythmic gymnast Jessica Howard recounted their experiences before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“USA Gymnastics failed its most basic responsibility to protect the athletes under its care,” Dantzscher said through tears.

Dominique Moceanu, a 1996 gold medalist, described a “culture of fear, intimidation and humiliation, established by Bela and Martha Karolyi,” the legendary coaches who are named in a civil lawsuit for physical abuse.

U.S. Olympic Committee official Rick Adams and Stafford County (Va.) Commonwealth’s Attorney Eric Olsen also testified. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the committee chairman, criticized USA Gymnastics for declining to testify.

The hearing concerns a bill that could reshape sex-abuse reporting guidelines in Olympic sports. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is co-sponsoring a bill that calls on organizations overseeing Olympic sports to immediately report sex-abuse allegations to law enforcement or child-welfare authorities.

The bill and proposed changes to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act come in the aftermath of the sex abuse scandal that led to the resignation of USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny.

Dantzscher and Howard told the committee of their abuses by Dr. Larry Nassar, who is in prison in Michigan and faces charges in the state and federal systems.

“They failed to take action against coaches, trainers and other adults who abused children,” Dantzscher said. “And they allowed Dr. Nassar to abuse young women and girls for more than 20 years.”

Howard said, “It has become glaringly obvious that USA Gymnastics has not done nearly enough to protect athletes from any form of abuse.”

Moceanu, now an advocate, spoke about her emotional and verbal abuse during her time with USA Gymnastics. She said there is an “urgent need” to change the culture of the organization.

Feinstein, who has been critical of USA Gymnastics’ handling of the sex-abuse scandal, said she met two months ago with former gymnasts who were abused as teenagers and carried the trauma with them as adults. Dantzscher and Howard said they didn’t realize until last year that Nassar had abused them.

As part of the proposed legislation, governing bodies under the USOC umbrella would be required to report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement and train employees on how to handle situations. The statute of limitations for victims to sue their abusers would also be extended.

“Young athletes should not have to fear victimization from coaches doctors and other officials,” Feinstein said at a news conference after the hearing.

Retired gymnast Jeanette Antolin also said at the news conference she was sexually abused by her first coach and praised the proposed legislation, saying “for so long we felt like we had no voice.”

Mattie Larson, a 2010 World Championships team member, also attended the news conference but did not speak.

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MORE: John Orozco retires, reflects on gymnastics career