Torah Bright

Torah Bright to skip Sochi Olympics if safety problems worsen

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At least one gold medalist is considering not competing at the Sochi Olympics after suicide bombings rocked a city 400 miles northeast of Sochi.

“If the political position gets any worse I sure as hell won’t be risking my safety just for an Olympic Games,” said Australian Torah Bright, the reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, according to The Australian Associated Press.

Two-time Olympic snowboardcross champion Seth Wescott said he doesn’t think he’ll attend the Opening Ceremony if he qualifies for the Winter Games, according to USA Today.

More than 30 people were killed after explosions Sunday and Monday in Volgograd, a city of more than one million people about 400 miles northeast of Sochi.

The president of the Russian Olympic Committee said security will not be increased for the Winter Games, which begin Feb. 6.

Bright, eyeing her third Olympics, said she needed to learn more about the situation before making a final decision.

“I’m not too worried but if it comes down to countries saying, ‘go at your own risk,’ I would make a decision that would keep me safe,” Bright said. “As far as now I think it would be OK, but I guess we’ll see when the time comes.”

American athletes expressed varying levels of concern.

“I don’t want to be pessimistic about it,” Wescott said, according to USA Today. “I think you’re watching events start to happen. It’s a country that’s had massive amounts of internal strife that has manifested itself into actual combat. We’re not far away from where a lot of that has gone on in their country. It’s definitely a concern.”

Figure skater Ross Miner, who is preparing for next week’s U.S. Championships and a potential first Olympics, said he doesn’t worry, citing high security when he competed at the 2011 World Championships in Moscow, where athletes went through metal detectors.

“Given the history of the Olympics and the tragedy that occurred in Munich, the IOC takes this very seriously,” Miner said.

Speed skater Jilleanne Rookard, who made her second Olympic team last week, said she’s unsure if she trusts the security forces in Russia.

“But they don’t want a national embarrassment, either,” she told The Associated Press. “I use that thought to relieve some of my worry. I’m sure they want to save their image and their pride.”

Austrian ski jumper Thomas Morgenstern, a three-time Olympic champion, said he saw sharp shooters roaming the woods at a competition in Sochi last year, according to the AP.

“It’s terrible we have to live in fear,” four-time Olympic speed skating medalist Shani Davis told the AP, “but that’s just kind of how it is.”

Russia sports minister scales back Olympic medal expectations

Salt Lake City forms committee to weigh Olympic bid

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Salt Lake City has formed an exploratory committee to decide if the city will bid to host the Winter Olympics in either 2026 or 2030 — taking a key step toward trying to become a rare two-time host city.

The group made up of elected officials, business leaders and one key member of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City said Monday that it plans to make a recommendation to state leaders by Feb. 1.

The announcement comes after the U.S. Olympic Committee board said Friday that it was moving forward with discussions about bringing the Winter Games to America for either 2026 or 2030.

Because Los Angeles was recently awarded the 2028 Summer Games, a bid for 2030 would make more sense, chairman Larry Probst said Friday.

The USOC has until next March to pick a city; those expressing interest include Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nevada.

Innsbruck, Austria, said Sunday it wouldn’t bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, taking one more city out of the running. The hosting rights are set to be awarded in July 2019.

The same country hasn’t hosted back-to-back Olympics since before World War II, though when the International Olympic Committee scrapped its traditional rules and awarded 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (LA) at the same time, it indicated it was certainly open to new ideas.

Since 2012, Salt Lake City has been letting Olympic officials know the city was ready and willing to host again with a plan based on renovating and upgrading venues that have been in use since the Games ended.

The city had previously estimated it could put on a Winter Olympics for about $2 billion, but the committee will come up with a new cost estimate, said Jeff Robbins, the president and CEO of the Utah Sports Commission.

Robbins is one of three co-chairs on the committee along with Utah Senate President Wayne Niederhauser and Fraser Bullock, a key player in Salt Lake City’s 2002 Olympics.

Robbins said he thinks the city has a great shot at winning a bid based on the relatively low cost and because it has demonstrated it knows how to maintain venues and keep them in use, putting the city in line with Agenda 2020, the blueprint that IOC President Thomas Bach created for future Olympics calling for less spending on new venues and infrastructure.

There’s an eight-lane interstate running from the Salt Lake airport, which was upgraded for the Olympics, to Park City, which is the home of U.S. Ski and Snowboard. Park City is the host for key U.S. training centers for freestyle skiing, speedskating and cross country skiing.

Overall, the area has hosted about 75 World Cup and world-championship events in winter sports since the Olympic cauldron was extinguished more than 15 years ago.

He said an expanded light rail train line grid around Salt Lake City and a $3 billion airport renovation already underway are two examples of how Salt Lake City is even better prepared now to host than in 2002.

But he and other organizers will also have to answer questions about a bidding scandal that marred the 2002 Games and resulted in several International Olympic Committee members losing their positions for taking bribes.

“You can’t control the past,” Robbins said. “The results of what happened I think would certainly speak volumes. While there was some challenges, we hosted arguably one of the best Olympics ever hosted.”

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Simone Biles announces new coach

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When Simone Biles begins her comeback in earnest next month, she’ll be training under a new coach — Laurent Landi — who coached one of her Olympic teammates, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Landi, a 39-year-old former French gymnast, guided Rio uneven bars silver medalist Madison Kocian at the Dallas-area gym WOGA, along with wife Cecile.

“[Landi] was in Dallas, which is not far away, and had recently left WOGA, and I had worked with alongside him and know how he is with athletes,” Biles said, according to the newspaper. “He does a good job not letting pressure get to the athletes. You can see some coaches get stressed but he doesn’t.”

Biles’ previous coach since she was 7, Aimee Boorman, left their Houston-area gym for a gymnastics job in Florida after the Rio Games.

Biles said last week she plans to return to full-time training Nov. 1 and return to competition next summer.

Kocian is now at UCLA and uncertain to return to elite gymnastics.

Two other Final Five members — Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez — have said they plan to return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But neither has announced a return to the gym like Biles.

The last member — 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas — has not said whether she will come back.

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