Courtesy Gary di Silvestri

Staten Island man, 46, and wife will ski for Dominica at Sochi Olympics

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UPDATE (Feb. 26): Some of Gary di Silvestri’s background information has been disputed. Di Silvestri has not responded to a text message and voicemail request for a response to claims that information he provided was untrue.

The first-ever Winter Olympians for the Caribbean island of Dominica will be Gary di Silvestri, a 46-year-old originally from Staten Island, N.Y., and his wife, Angelica Morrone di Silvestri, 48, born and raised in Italy.

It’s not the first time an athlete with U.S. roots has competed for another nation. Nor is it the first time a husband and wife have gone to the Olympics together. And there have been older Olympians, though not too many.

But add them all up?

“It will be historic,” Dominica Olympic Committee secretary general Thomas Dorsett said. “Our tourism department will make a field day of that.”

Di Silvestri was a two-time state wrestling champion at Monsignor Farrell High School in Staten Island. His wrestling career ended on a drive home with his father after a meet his senior year.

A drunk driver collided with them, head on. Di Silvestri wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

“I went through the windshield,” he said.

He spent two days in a coma and two weeks in a hospital but escaped without permanent injury.

Di Silvestri rowed for a national championship team at Georgetown, where he was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist. He didn’t get the scholarship, but he did spend a year in Italy, where he met a Rome University student who would become his wife in 1990.

Upon graduating, he became a Wall Street financial analyst, spent about five years in New York and four years in London before he and his wife returned to the U.S. to run his own company, Deutsche Suisse. In their free time, they skied.

“We had started cross-country skiing maybe 15 years ago, at a very leisurely level, and then as we became more proficient, we loved it,” Morrone di Silvestri said. “We started training and looking for opportunities to race and improve our technique. It’s been a passion for many years now.”

It’s been truly competitive for about seven years.

“No kids, no pets,” Di Silvestri said. “This would not be possible with kids.”

They now live and train in Canmore, Canada, home of the Nordic skiing events at the 1988 Olympics.

They first visited Dominica on holiday six or seven years ago. They have done philanthropic work, mostly in other Caribbean countries, funding children’s hospitals in needy areas. They had a friend at the nation’s Ross University School of Medicine, and it’s become a home when they’re not training.

“They call it the nature island, half tropical rain forest, half Caribbean beach,” Di Silvestri said. “The sand is black, not white. They have 1400m high peaks. It has everything. It has mountains. It has caves. It has hiking, beaches, beautiful crystal clear water, snorkeling, the whole bit. It’s untouched by tourism, relatively speaking.”

Dominica offered them citizenship as a thank you for the charitable work.

“It was kind of given to us,” Di Silvestri said. “It was nothing.”

In November 2012, the International Olympic Committee asked Dominica, among other nations, if it had any athletes it was considering for the Sochi Olympics, Di Silvestri said. There were few options.

The nation had sent no more than six athletes to each of the past five Summer Olympics but never a Winter Games. Dominica is roughly the size of Lexington, Ky., with 70,000 people and doesn’t dip below 60 degrees.

“They knew us, called us and said, ‘Guys, we want you to represent Dominica if you think you can qualify,'” Di Silvestri said. “At first we were hesitant, going from a hobby to a full-time commitment. We said, ‘What the hell. It’s an opportunity. We’ll take it.'”

Di Silvestri began the process by starting the Dominica Ski Federation from scratch, using a constitution template given to them by the International Ski Federation. There were certainly doubts.

“I’m not exactly a spring chicken,” said Morrone di Silvestri, who skied on the Italian Alps as a child. “Can we do it?”

They were officially eligible beginning this season, and they furiously attempted to qualify. They entered lower-level Australia/New Zealand Cup, U.S. Super Tour, Nor-Am Cup and FIS races, finishing from 10th to 78th place.

Event organizers questioned them countless times after looking at athlete start lists with birth years next to names.

“’90, ’91, ’92, ’93, all of a sudden ’67, ’65, is there a typo here?” he said. “We’re kind of used to it.”

They were intimidated at first, but Di Silvestri qualified in December, and his wife did so last week in her last-chance race.

“One broken pole or a broken ski would have been the end of it,” Di Silvestri said.

They’re still finalizing travel arrangements but are confident they will be in Sochi and march in the Opening Ceremony. Di Silvestri will carry the flag.

They’ll compete on back-to-back days. The women’s 10km cross-country race is Feb .13, followed by the men’s 15km on Feb. 14. They’re going in with experienced mindsets, having already ordered Dominica pins to trade.

“Our coach said that’s going to be a hot commodity,” Di Silvestri said. “So we’re having them made up. They’re going to trade like currency, good as gold.”

U.S. skier overcomes cancer, makes Olympics

Atlanta Olympic venues, 20 years later (photos)

In this Friday, July 22, 2016 photo, people play in the fountains shaped by the Olympic rings at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. This was the hub of the games, a gathering spot for sponsor tents and nightly concerts. Tragedy struck midway through the Olympics when a deadly bombing ripped through the park, but it emerged afterward as a catalyst of downtown development, now surrounded by the hugely popular Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, College Football Hall of Fame, National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and a giant ferris wheel. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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ATLANTA (AP) — Twenty years after the Olympics were held in Atlanta, some remnants of that improbable summer remain a highly visible part of the city’s landscape, while others quickly faded away.

Centennial Olympic Park and Turner Field — known as Centennial Olympic Stadium in 1996 — were the greatest legacy of those games, though the latter faces an uncertain future after just 20 seasons as home of baseball’s Atlanta Braves, who are moving to a new suburban stadium next year.

Other venues barely outlasted the extinguishing of the Olympic flame, while still more failed to live up to their intended purpose.

A look at Atlanta’s Olympic facilities two decades later:

CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC STADIUM: The 85,000-seat main stadium was site of athletics (Michael Johnson‘s world record, Carl Lewis‘ farewell) and both the opening and closing ceremonies (Muhammad Ali‘s poignant lighting of the torch). Afterward, the arena was converted into a 50,000-seat baseball park and renamed after the longtime owner of the Braves, Ted Turner. It hosted both the World Series and the All-Star Game during its early years, but the Braves have fallen on hard times and are moving to SunTrust Park in 2017. Georgia State is exploring the possibility of another conversion, which would downsize Turner Field into a 30,000-seat football stadium.

This photo combo shows a July 19, 1996 file photo of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games opening ceremony at Centennial Olympic Stadium, top, and a Friday July 15, 2016 photo of fireworks after an Atlanta Braves baseball game at what is now named Turner Field in Atlanta. The 85,000-seat main stadium was the site of athletics and both the opening and closing ceremonies. Afterward, the arena was converted into a 50,000-seat baseball park and renamed after the Braves' owner, Ted Turner. The Braves have fallen on hard times and are moving to SunTrust Park in 2017. Georgia State is exploring the possibility of another conversion, which would downsize Turner Field into a 30,000-seat football stadium. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke, File, John Bazemore)

GEORGIA DOME: A divider transformed this 70,000-seat football stadium into two separate arenas — one the site of second Olympic Dream Team winning gold in men’s basketball, the other where the Magnificent Seven captured America’s first victory in women’s team gymnastics. Just 25 years after its opening, the dome is slated for demolition after $1.4 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium opens next door in 2017.

In this Monday, July 18, 2016 photo, a statue of a gymnast stands between the Georgia Dome, right, home of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games gymnastics and basketball events and current home of the Atlanta Falcons football team, and the Falcons' new stadium under construction at left. A divider transformed the Georgia Dome, a 70,000-seat football stadium into two separate arenas, one the site of second Olympic Dream Team winning gold in men's basketball, the other where the Magnificent Seven captured America's first victory in women's team gymnastics. Just 25 years after its opening, the dome is slated for demolition after $1.4 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium opens next door in 2017. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

CENTENNIAL OLYMPIC PARK: This was the hub of the games, a gathering spot for sponsor tents and nightly concerts. Tragedy struck midway through the Olympics when a deadly bombing ripped through the park, but it emerged afterward as a catalyst of downtown development, now surrounded by the hugely popular Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, College Football Hall of Fame, National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and a giant Ferris wheel.

GEORGIA TECH AQUATIC CENTER: Temporary seating was used during the Olympics, providing a 14,600-seat main pool for swimming, diving and synchronized swimming. There also was a 4,000-seat temporary pool for water polo. After the games, Georgia Tech enclosed the facility and reduced capacity to just under 2,000. This year, it hosted the NCAA swimming championships as well as a pre-Olympic camp for the U.S. swim team before it departed for the Rio Olympics.

In this Friday, July 22, 2016 photo, a diver stands on a diving board during practice at Georgia Tech's McAuley Aquatic Center, home of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games swimming, diving, and synchronized swimming events in Atlanta. Temporary seating was used during the Olympics, providing a 14,600-seat main pool for swimming, diving and synchronized swimming. There also was a 4,000-seat temporary pool for water polo. After the games, Georgia Tech enclosed the facility and reduced capacity to just under 2,000. This year, it hosted the NCAA swimming championships as well as a pre-Olympic camp for the U.S. swim team before it departed for the Rio Olympics. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

GEORGIA WORLD CONGRESS CENTER: One of the world’s largest convention centers (and even more sprawling today after a post-Games expansion), it was divided into five separate arenas during the Olympics, reducing the need for wasteful new venues for fencing, handball, judo, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling. That became a model for future Olympics.

ATLANTA-FULTON COUNTY STADIUM: Site of baseball during the Olympics, the former home of the Atlanta Braves served out the 1996 season, then was imploded the following summer to make way for a parking lot serving adjacent Turner Field.

In this Wednesday, July 20, 2016 photo, visitors stand next a piece of the outfield wall of what used to be Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, home of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games baseball event, and former home of the Atlanta Braves baseball team in Atlanta. The stadium served out the 1996 baseball season, then was imploded the following summer to make way for a parking lot serving adjacent Turner Field. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

OMNI COLISEUM: Just a week before Atlanta Stadium came down, this facility used for volleyball during the Olympics met the same fate. Philips Arena now occupies the site.

GEORGIA INTERNATIONAL HORSE PARK: Equestrian, modern pentathlon and the first Olympic mountain bike competition were held at the park about 30 miles east of Atlanta. It remains an equestrian and events center, with horse and mountain bike trails plus an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course open to the public.

STONE MOUNTAIN PARK ARCHERY CENTER AND VELODROME: Temporary facilities for archery and track cycling came down shortly after the Olympics. The site is now part of a songbird and habitat trail.

STONE MOUNTAIN TENNIS CENTER: A permanent tennis facility built in a corner of Stone Mountain Park quickly became a money loser and now sits idle, weeds growing through the outer courts and the scoreboard in disrepair.

SANFORD STADIUM (Athens, Georgia): The home of the Georgia Bulldogs football team hosted soccer finals, including the U.S. memorably winning the first women’s gold. The stadium known for its famous hedges (which were taken down during the Olympics and then re-planted) has been expanded to hold more than 92,000.

ALEXANDER MEMORIAL COLISEUM: Site of boxing in 1996, Georgia Tech’s basketball arena underwent a massive renovation that completely gutted the interior of the building. It reopened in 2012 as gleaming McCamish Pavilion.

HERNDON STADIUM: Perhaps the saddest legacy of the games, this 15,000-seat stadium was used during the filming of the movie “We Are Marshall” but was abandoned after Morris Brown College ran into financial difficulties. Gutted by vandals, it is now covered in graffiti and piles of trash.

LAKE LANIER (Gainesville, Georgia): This man-made lake still has its rowing facilities, which have been used for major competitions over the last two decades. This year, it hosted an Olympic qualifier for Rio.

WOLF CREEK SHOOTING COMPLEX: Some facilities remain at this suburban venue now known as the Tom Lowe Shooting Grounds, but it no longer holds major international events.

ATLANTA BEACH: Located south of the city, this venue was site of the first Olympic beach volleyball tournament. It was renamed Clayton County International Park, with the main stadium now used for concerts and other events though the park still includes several beach volleyball courts, as well as a water park, lake and biking trails.

GOLDEN PARK (Columbus, Georgia): The 5,000-seat stadium, about a two-hour drive from Atlanta, was used for the first Olympic softball competition. It served for years as home to minor league baseball, but the last of those teams, the Columbus Catfish, left after the 2008 season. The stadium remains but no longer has a major tenant.

OTHER VENUES: Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum (volleyball preliminaries), Georgia State’s GSU Sports Arena (badminton), Clark-Atlanta’s Panther Stadium (field hockey) and Morehouse’s Forbes Arena (basketball preliminaries) are still used by their respective colleges. In fact, Panther Stadium now holds the athletics track used during the Olympics. The Ocoee Whitewater Center in Tennessee (whitewater canoeing) and Wassaw Sound near coastal Savannah, Georgia (sailing) were temporary venues. Preliminary soccer matches were held in four stadiums outside Atlanta. Birmingham’s Legion Field, Orlando’s Citrus Bowl and Washington’s RFK Stadium are still in use, while Miami’s Orange Bowl was torn down to make way for a new baseball stadium.

Baseball, softball, 4 more sports to learn Olympic fate next week

Olympic baseball
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TOKYO (AP) — Five sports, including surfing and skateboarding, moved a step closer to being included in the Tokyo 2020 Games after being described as “a dynamic and exciting” package by the IOC.

Skateboarding, surfing, karate, sports climbing and baseball/softball were all recommended for inclusion by the IOC. An Olympic program commission report released on Thursday said the five are a blend of the traditional and emerging, youth-focused events, and all have international and local appeal.

The IOC will make the final decision on the five sports in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 3, two days before the opening ceremony of the 2016 Games.

In assessing the case for inclusion, the commission considered gender equality, youth appeal and their legacy value.

The inclusion of the new sports would add 18 events and 474 athletes, with equal numbers of women and men for all sports except baseball/softball, because softball teams have 15 players, whilst baseball teams have 24.

The report said the new sports in Tokyo would not threaten the inclusion of existing Olympic sports or be binding on future host cities.

Baseball and softball, which are making a combined bid to return, were dropped after the 2008 Beijing Games. Their hopes for inclusion are boosted by their popularity in Japan.

MORE: MLB players may balk at Olympic baseball