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.

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Shaun White on Torino 2006, Andre Agassi, more

Shaun White
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Shaun White discussed myriad topics at the Forbes Under 30 Summit on Tuesday, including skateboarding at the Olympics and what’s next in snowboarding.

Check out his future Olympic thoughts (and more) here.

There was more from the 28-minute conversation. Here are other noteworthy tidbits from one of the greatest U.S. Winter Olympians:

On becoming a businessman: “The time came where they wanted me to do signature products. I’m thinking, wow, what do I do in this scenario? So I went to my older brother, a really talented artist, really great guy. He helped me with all those things. As you start to develop your own products, and you test them, you send them out there into the world. There’s some kid sitting there looking at this entire rack of clothing or goggles or whatever it is, and he picks your goggles. I mean, there’s something special about that connection to the fan, or to the consumer. For me, that’s when I really thought, wow, I spent so much time sitting here, trying to get this company to think the way that I do, it would be so much easier to cut out that middle man and do my own thing and do my own product lines.”

On the Torino 2006 Olympic title at age 19: “It was heavy. I don’t know. I think everything just changed. It went from me going outside to being kind of recognized, or maybe recognized, to I was going to get spotted. Somebody was going to say something to me. People had won before me, but there was something about the way I could talk to the audience, or my fans. I always felt like the same guy, just extraordinary things kept happening to me through hard work. Something about, I had huge red hair and all these things. So I was recognizable. It really took off for me.”

On White’s owned Air & Style brand versus the X Games or Dew Tour: “I just see us as such a completely different thing. We’re new. It’s fun. It’s fresh. We can be kind of nimble and do different things, where if you’re X Games, you’re embedded in this thing. Your name is extreme games. You’re stuck in this kind of playing field, where I feel like we can kind of dance between genres of art and music and fashion and all the things that kind of represent the sport. It’s kind of like taking an old brand that somebody already knows, and it’s like, ‘Wow, these are mom jeans, I don’t wear these jeans.’ You know what I mean? And then somebody trying to like revamp that company. It’s almost a lot harder to turn the ship around than just build a new one in that sense. At least that’s my take on it.”

White said he learned to play the bright yellow Fender Stratocaster guitar he won as a Winter X Games prize by practicing in hotels and airport lounges, but he kept it a secret from the media at first.

“I didn’t want somebody to like corrupt it in a sense and put me on stage with a guitar trying to do a really terrible cover of Led Zeppelin or something,” he said.

Also Tuesday, White repeated that losing in Sochi was one of the best things that could have happened to him. Video of that response here. He expressed similar sentiments in interviews around this time last year.

And finally, White praised 1996 Olympic tennis gold medalist Andre Agassi. The two are noted friends and have snowboarded together. White said he was inspired by reading Agassi’s autobiography, “Open.”

“He started to win when he really realized that tennis wasn’t his life,” White said. “It was just what he did. It allowed him to kind of go onto the court and leave it on the court. You know what I mean? He would do his match, and he’d be like, you know what, win or lose, I’m going home to my family and the people that care about me and my life. That really struck a chord with me, because that’s how I felt from the get-go. Well, I do snowboarding, but this is who I am, and this is what I’m about. And so for me to play music or for me to design clothing, or fashion, things like that, it’s not out of the wheelhouse for me, because this is who I really am.”

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U.S. women’s gymnastics World Championships team analysis

Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles
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The U.S. women’s gymnastics team that will try to win a fourth straight global title at the World Championships in three weeks in Glasgow, Scotland, is arguably the most accomplished in American history.

It’s the first time a U.S. men’s or women’s team for Worlds has included two past Olympic or World all-around champions — Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas.

It’s the first time a U.S. men’s or women’s team for Worlds has included any past individual Olympic champions — Douglas and Aly Raisman.

Biles, Douglas and Raisman were three of the seven women named to the team by USA Gymnastics following selection camp competition in Texas on Thursday night.

The others are 2014 World Championships team members MyKayla Skinner and Madison Kocian; Brenna Dowell, who traveled to the 2013 Worlds but didn’t compete, and Worlds rookie Maggie Nichols.

One of the seven women must be designated an alternate before Worlds, as nations can use a maximum of six in competition in Glasgow.

The team includes zero women under the age of 18, a first in U.S. gymnastics World Championships history. That hasn’t happened at the Olympics since 1952, according to

The U.S. roster is without Olympic team champions McKayla Maroney, who hasn’t competed since the 2013 Worlds, and Kyla Ross, who announced her withdrawal from Worlds team selection on Oct. 1 without citing a reason. The other member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, Jordyn Wieber, is retired.

At Worlds, the U.S.’ biggest competition will likely come from the other three women’s gymnastics powers — China, Romania and Russia. Russia’s early roster includes three members of its five-woman 2012 Olympic silver medal-winning team, including Viktoria Komova, the Olympic all-around silver medalist.

An interesting competition within the U.S. team could be which two women advance from Oct. 24 qualifying into the Worlds individual all-around final Oct. 29. If more than two U.S. women compete on all four events in qualifying, then the two with the highest overall scores advance to the all-around final.

MORE GYMNASTICS: A look at recent Olympians’ comebacks

Here’s a look at the U.S. team and each gymnast’s credentials:

Simone Biles: The two-time reigning World all-around champion and three-time reigning U.S. champion. The 18-year-old Texan could become the first woman to win three straight World all-around titles. She could also break Alicia Sacramone‘s U.S. record for career Worlds medals. Sacramone earned 10 medals over five Worlds. Biles has nine in her first two, after bagging a U.S. women’s record five medals at a single Worlds in 2014. Biles has won nine straight all-around competitions, with her last defeat coming March 30, 2013.

Gabby Douglas: The Olympic all-around champion will compete at Worlds for the first time since her 2011 debut. She took 31 months off from competition after London 2012, returning in March. She’s finished fourth, second and fifth in three all-around competitions this year, with Biles winning all of those titles.

Aly Raisman: The Olympic floor exercise champion is also at Worlds for the first time since 2011 after taking a 31-month break following London 2012. She’s finished third, fifth and third in three all-arounds this year, all won by Biles. Raisman earned the P&G Championships floor exercise title in August over Biles, the two-time reigning World champion in the event.

Maggie Nichols: The Little Canada, Minn., native whose Twitter handle is @MagsGotSwag12, finished second in the P&G Championships all-around, behind Biles and ahead of Raisman and Douglas. She was third at the 2014 P&G Championships and looked destined for her first Worlds team then until dislocating her left kneecap the following week.

Madison Kocian: She’s the P&G champion on uneven bars, the only apparatus for which she was used in the 2014 World Championships team final. The last American to win an Olympic or Worlds uneven bars title was Nastia Liukin in 2005.

Brenna Dowell: She made the 2013 Worlds team and traveled to Antwerp, Belgium, but was designated the alternate with Biles, Ross and Maroney competing in the all-around in qualifying. At that Worlds (but not this one), a maximum of three women per country could compete per apparatus. She was also an alternate for the 2014 Worlds team and is strongest on uneven bars and floor exercise. Dowell, who is taking a year off from competing for Oklahoma University, is the first U.S. women’s gymnast with NCAA experience to make an Olympic or Worlds team since Sacramone in 2011.

MyKayla Skinner: Skinner finished third on vault and fourth on floor exercise at the 2014 Worlds and then second to Biles in the all-around at the American Cup on March 7. She was second on vault and third on floor at the P&G Championships in August.

MORE GYMNASTICS: Analyzing U.S. men’s World Championships team