Paolo Bernardi

U.S. women’s ski jumping coach Paolo Bernardi quits

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Paolo Bernardi quit three months before he would become the first U.S. Olympic women’s ski jumping team coach.

The Italian Bernardi, 41, had coached the U.S. team since 2011, the same year women’s ski jumping was officially added to the Olympics after a long fight to join men at the Winter Games.

A message was posted to Bernardi’s Facebook account last week, then deleted.

“I resign for personal reasons and it was a hard decision….I keep loving and following this sport and I hope to find another team soon that can give me the motivation to start again,” was posted, according to the International Ski Federation website.

Bernardi, whose family lives in Italy, “was forced to re-evaluate his situation” after he requested an international-based assistant and was not granted one, according to USA Todaywhich also cited “demanding travel” and “an all-consuming job.”

“It was the best decision for myself and for my team because our roads were not going the same direction anymore,” Bernardi told the newspaper. “After 2 ½ years eventually we are not on the same page anymore, and so I had to quit.”

He went through a tough season with the death of his mother in February.

“I did too much,” Bernardi told the newspaper. “When you drive one car at the highest speed possible for 2 ½ years, sooner or later you’re going to hit the wall and I’m really afraid I’m going to hit the wall. Before it’s too late I want to take a break and slow down.”

Bernardi helped guide the team’s star, Sarah Hendrickson, 19, to the 2011-12 World Cup season title and the 2013 World Championship.

Hendrickson tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee in an Aug. 21 crash but was walking normally two months later. She’s hoping to be ready to compete in Sochi on Feb. 11.

“She was looking forward to starting again with me,” Bernardi told USA Today. “We’ll see, I’m always available for her if I don’t find another job.

“She’s the kind of athlete who knows exactly what she has to do. When she gets back in January she’s going to be like before. I don’t see any problem.”

The ski jumping World Cup begins in Lillehammer, Norway, on Dec. 7.

Bernardi was known for wearing his emotions on his jacket sleeve.

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Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban