Seth Wescott

Seth Wescott, Nick Baumgartner up for one Olympic spot

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Apologies to figure skating, but men’s snowboardcross appears to include the most intriguing U.S. Olympic discretionary selection.

Three men have qualified automatically — two-time Olympian Nate Holland and first-time Olympians Trevor Jacob and Alex Deibold — via earning one top-four finish in World Cup events this season.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has the ability to add a fourth man to the team, and it is expected to do so next week.

That fourth spot could go to Seth Wescott, who has won both Olympic gold medals since the sport was added to the Olympics in 2006.

Wescott, 37, underwent a complete reconstruction of his left ACL in April after falling into an Alaska crevasse while shooting part of a film for ski and snowboard director Warren Miller. He tore the ACL and broke his tibia.

His return to competition came in Andorra last weekend, the final World Cup event before the Olympics. Wescott finished an unimpressive 49th and 31st in two races, aiming for that top-four criteria.

“I knew it was going to be a tough order for me to jump back on in basically on the last weekend and try to make [the Olympic Team],” Wescott said in a phone interview. “Getting back up to speed, it takes a little while. with my whole scenario, my coming off injury. I thought, mainly for my health, I needed to wait until the last possible moment [to return].”

That fourth spot could also go to Nick Baumgartner, a 2010 Olympian and the only U.S. man with three top-10 finishes on the World Cup tour this season.

“I’m definitely stressed and sweating a little bit,” Baumgartner said in a phone interview. “I don’t want to sound cocky, but as of right now I feel like the strongest rider on the team.”

Baumgartner, 32, hoped to secure his spot in Andorra with a top-four finish, but he came in sixth and eighth in two races.

“It definitely is tough because Seth has had some great results,” Baumgartner said. “There’s no taking it away, he won the last two [Olympics]. … It’s a hard call, but in my eyes I really just hope they go with the results and how the riding is going right now. I think that’s the fair way to go. I also wish I didn’t put myself in this situation.”

Wescott is one of three Olympians trying to become the first American man to win the same Winter Olympic event three straight times (Bonnie Blair is the only U.S. woman to do it). Fellow snowboarder Shaun White (halfpipe) and speed skater Shani Davis (1000m) also won in 2006 and 2010.

Wescott, if they all make the Olympic team, would be the last of the three to make the attempt. Men’s snowboardcross in Sochi is Feb. 17, five days after Davis’ 1000m and six days after White’s halfpipe.

“My history is what it is, and I have the best history of anyone on the U.S. team at major events, worlds, X Games, Olympics,” Wescott said. “So I know, from a USOC perspective, if they’re looking at fielding a team, they’re looking at fielding who’s going to bring medals. That definitely has to weigh in some.

“I was really happy with the progress I made last week and knowing we’ve got more than 30 days until the race day for us over there [in Sochi], I really do feel like I could be ready to go the way I need to be.”

Wescott said he has not made contact with anybody to argue his case to be picked. He believes in the system, that a spot must be earned, and is not feeling pressure despite the uncertainty.

“There is no grandfathering,” he said. “There is no taking me because of what I’ve done in the past. I’m honestly a fan of that.”

Baumgartner calls Wescott a friend.

“I look up to him very much,” Baumgartner said. “You always want great things for your friends, and I want to go [to Sochi] as well. I feel as if I earned it.”

Knowing the qualifying scenario, Wescott still cheered Baumgartner on at the bottom of the course in Andorra.

“Go punch your ticket today,” Wescott told Baumgartner. “I would be happy to see him have great success. Frankly, I don’t think there’s anyone on the team that deserves it more than he does.

“I’ve been so fortunate to have two [Olympic] experiences I’ve had. A third one right now isn’t going to drastically change my life one way or another,” said Wescott, who harbors plans for 2018 whether or not he goes to Sochi. “I look at him as a single father and all the stuff that he has on his plate. He’s an amazing athlete, one of the best we have.”

Wescott brought up an interesting point. He and Baumgartner are slated to compete in the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., on Jan. 24. The Winter X Games is not an official Olympic qualifying event, but in this case, he hopes the results there will be taken into consideration.

The final nominations to the Olympic Team are due Jan. 25.

U.S. bobsledder could make Olympics after competing for Liberia in Sydney 2000

Simone Biles says Larry Nassar sexually abused her

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Simone Biles watched as friends and Olympic teammates came forward to detail abuse at the hands of a now-imprisoned former USA Gymnastics team doctor.

Drawing in part from their strength, the four-time gold medalist acknowledged Monday she is among the athletes who were sexually abused by Larry Nassar.

Biles, who won five medals overall at the Rio Olympics, released a statement via social media outlining that abuse.

Nassar, who spent more than two decades as a physician at USA Gymnastics while also working at Michigan State University, has admitted sexually assaulting gymnasts, possessing child pornography and molesting girls who sought medical treatment.

He was sentenced in December to 60 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography and is facing another 40 to 125 years in prison after pleading guilty to assaulting seven girls.

Biles, now 20, called Nassar’s behavior “completely unacceptable, disgusting, and abusive, especially from someone whom I was told to trust.”

She joined a list of high-profile gymnasts who came out against Nassar, including six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, 2012 all-around champion Gabby Douglas and two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney.

Like her Olympic teammates, Biles detailed abuse by Nassar that he disguised as treatment.

“It is not normal to receive any type of treatment from a trusted team physician and refer to it horrifyingly as the ‘special’ treatment,” Biles wrote.

Biles is in the beginning stages of a return to competition, a journey that includes visits to the national team’s training center at the Karolyi Ranch north of Houston, where she said the abuse occurred.

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing in Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” Biles wrote.

USA Gymnastics initially agreed to buy the Karolyi Ranch in the summer of August 2016, following the retirement of longtime national team coordinator Martha Karolyi but then backed out of the deal, though the national team continues to use the facility while options for a replacement are explored.

Biles says she initially wondered if she was to blame.

“For too long I’ve asked myself, ‘Was I too naive? Was it may fault?’” Biles wrote. “I now know the answer to those questions. No. No. It was not my fault. No, I will not and should not carry the guilt that belongs to Larry Nassar, USAG, and others.”

USA Gymnastics did not initially respond to a request for comment.

The organization has taken several steps in recent months. President and CEO Steve Penny resigned under pressure last March and was replaced by Kerry Perry, who took over on Dec. 1.

The organization hired Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of SafeSport last summer.

Part of Stark’s mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs and reporting.

The federation also adopted over 70 recommendations by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw an extensive independent review.

That’s not far enough for some.

Raisman has urged the organization to remove chairman of the board Paul Parilla among others. Biles, like Raisman, wants USA Gymnastics to take a deeper look at the conditions that allowed Nassar’s behavior to run unchecked for so long.

“We need to know why this was able to take place for so long and to so many of us,” Biles said. “We need to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Jamaica qualifies first Olympic women’s bobsled team

Jamaica Bobsled Jazmine Fenlator
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Jamaica, we have a women’s Olympic bobsled team.

Jamaica qualified an Olympic women’s bobsled team for the first time, earning the last quota spot in the PyeongChang field by a slim margin over Romania.

This season, Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian (a 2014 U.S. Olympian) drove the first Jamaican women’s sled in World Cup competition since 2001.

She and brakewoman Carrie Russell debuted in seventh place in December, which put them into Olympic qualifying position. Russell won a 2013 World title in track and field as part of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay.

Fenlator-Victorian and Russell competed in a sled named “Mr. Cool Bolt” after “Cool Runnings” and Usain Bolt, according to International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation announcers.

Eleven Jamaicans have competed at the Winter Olympics — all men. All bobsledders, too, save ski cross racer Errol Kerr in 2010, according to Olympic historians.

Fenlator-Victorian, 32, announced her plan to switch representation to Jamaica (where her father is from) in 2015.

The year before, she finished 11th in her Olympic debut in Sochi with two-time Olympic track and field athlete Lolo Jones.

Jamaica just missed qualifying a two-man bobsled outright for PyeongChang. It is the first alternate if one of the qualified nations returns a quota spot.

The Olympic women’s bobsled medal contenders are American, Canadian and German sleds.

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MORE: Would Usain Bolt make a good bobsledder?

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