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

Ragan Smith delivers in first U.S. championship title win

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ragan Smith embraced the role of heavy favorite coming into the U.S. gymnastics championships.

Thrust into the spotlight for the first time in her career, the 17-year-old hardly appeared intimidated by the stage. Smith pulled away from the field to claim her first national title Sunday, posting a score of 115.250, more than three points clear of Jordan Chiles in second place and Riley McCusker in third.

Smith opened up a 1.3-point lead over McCusker in the opening round Friday but admitted afterward she wasn’t particularly impressed by her own performance. She was considerably sharper less than 48 hours later, her 57.850 total in the finals was the best in the 16-woman all-around field by nearly two points.

Smith is one of the few holdovers from the 2016 Olympic cycle, serving as an alternate for the “Final Five” team that won half of the available medals in Rio de Janeiro last fall. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez are taking breaks or have moved on, leaving Smith as the standard bearer for new national team coordinator Valeri Liukin.

The program appears to be in solid hands. Smith ditched “The Addams Family” themed floor routine she used last year for something a little more mature. It’s not the only part of her gymnastics that has grown up. Smith finished first on floor and beam and tied for third on bars.

Smith will be in the mix for the all-around title at the world championships in Montreal, where she’ll have a chance to extend the U.S.’s dominance. An American woman has won the world or Olympic title each of the last six years. Barring injury, Smith should be right there.

Liukin said he wasn’t alarmed following an uneven performance by the field in preliminaries, calling it a positive step for a group lacking in experience. The gymnastics were markedly improved in the finals.

Chiles slipped by McCusker into second thanks to a fabulous save on beam in which she turned a near disaster into something decidedly artful.

Chiles was in the middle of “wolf turn” (basically spinning on one foot while in a crouch on a 4-inch wide piece of wood) when she nearly fell over. Instead she rose to her feet, kept rotating, and went right into the next part of her routine as if it was planned all along.

Chiles’ steadiness gives Liukin another option as he tries to put together the rest of the four-woman team that will join Smith in Montreal. McCusker, only recently recovered from foot and wrist injuries, tried to keep the heat on Smith but stepped out of bounds following the last tumbling pass on her floor routine. McCusker finished first on bars — her legs practically magnetized together as she went from bar to bar — to win the event with ease.

Ashton Locklear, like Smith an alternate last summer, wound up second on bars with a watered down routine as he makes her way back from her own injury issues and should have time to install upgrades before Montreal.

Whoever heads to Canada in October will go with the usual expectations for what has become the sport’s most dominant program.

MORE: Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles has competed in the six previous U.S. National Championships, winning the last four, but in Anaheim this year, she’s watching from the sidelines. Biles won four gold medals (team, all-around, vault and floor) and one bronze (on beam) last summer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

This week she revealed she has returned to the gym to prepare for a yet to be determined event, in her return to competition.

When asked how she’s been doing in the gym by NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce, Biles responded with her signature smile accompanied by an endearingly bashful eye roll, “the beginning is…OK.”

MORE: Danell Leyva on why he’s retiring

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