Lindsey Van

Who should be U.S. flag bearer in Opening Ceremony?

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The U.S. Olympic Opening Ceremony flag bearer is usually chosen two days before the Games. Therefore, everyone has another week to debate who this year’s choice should be.

The U.S. flag bearer generally falls into one or more of three categories — medal favorite (Mariel Zagunis, 2012), longtime Olympian (Mark Grimmette, 2010) or fascinating backstory (Lopez Lomong, 2008).

(Technically, a flag bearer doesn’t have to be an Olympian. Boxer/politician Manny Pacquiao carried the Philippines flag at the 2008 Olympics.)

With that in mind, NBC Olympics compiled a list of 13 candidates (plus the ubiquitous “other”) to carry the Stars and Stripes into Fisht Stadium on Feb. 7. One can vote here.

Here are 13 potential flag bearers:

Erika Brown, Curling — First competed at the Olympics in 1988 at age 15, when curling was a demonstration sport.
Julie Chu, Hockey — Only four-time U.S. Olympic hockey player in Sochi.
Emily Cook, Aerials — Competing in her third Olympics. Made the 2002 Olympic Team but withdrew due to injury.
Meryl Davis and Charlie WhiteFigure Skating — Only U.S. gold-medal favorites in figure skating.
Shani Davis, Speed Skating — Could become first U.S. man to win the same Winter Olympic event three times.
Chris Fogt, Bobsled — A U.S. Army Olympian.
Steven Holcomb, Bobsled — Drove the U.S. to its first four-man bobsled since 1948 in 2010.
Todd Lodwick, Nordic Combined — First six-time U.S. Winter Olympian.
Bode Miller, Alpine Skiing — First five-time Olympic Alpine skier.
Noelle Pikus-Pace, Skeleton — Skeleton gold-medal co-favorite, mother of two.
Kikkan Randall, Cross-Country Skiing — Favored to win first U.S. Olympic cross-country gold medal.
Lindsey Van, Ski Jumping — Veteran anchor of first U.S. Olympic Women’s Ski Jumping Team.
Shaun White, Snowboarding — Could become first Winter Olympian to enter at least four career events and win gold medals in all of them.

Who will represent U.S. Figure Skating in Olympic team event?

Diver Sammy Lee, first Asian-American male gold medalist, dies at 96

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18:  1948 and 1952 Olympic platform diving gold medalist Dr. Sammy Lee and Olympic diving hopeful Brittany Viola of the United States attend the Team USA Road to London 100 Days Out Celebration in Times Square on April 18, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for USOC)
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Dr. Sammy Lee, the first Asian-American man to win an Olympic gold medal and first male diver to repeat as Olympic champion, died of pneumonia at age 96 on Friday, according to the University of Southern California.

Lee was born in Fresno, Calif., of Korean parents.

He unretired from a medical career to compete in his first Olympics in London in 1948, after the Games took a 12-year break due to World War II.

Lee earned platform gold and springboard bronze in 1948 and then retired, unretired and defended his platform title in 1952. Lee and another Asian-American, Victoria Manolo-Draves, who had a Filipino father and English mother, both won diving titles in 1948, with Draves’ springboard gold coming first.

Lee also served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during the Korean War.

He succeeded despite facing racial discrimination. From TeamUSA.org:

When Sammy was growing up, non-whites could use the pool where he practiced one day a week, on Wednesdays only. And then, as he has told it, the pool would be emptied after the non-whites used it, and fresh water was brought in the next day.

When the pool was off-limits, Sammy practiced by jumping into a sand pile.

Lee went on to coach divers, including Greg Louganis, after his competitive career, and continued his medical work. He graduated from USC’s medical school in 1947.

He is a member of the U.S. Olympic and International Swimming Halls of Fame.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously reported Lee was the first Asian-American Olympic champion. He was the second.

Mikaela Shiffrin improves in her second World Cup downhill

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, reacts after winning the alpine skiing women's World Cup slalom in Killington, Vt., Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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In her first two career World Cup downhills, Mikaela Shiffrin improved five spots from Friday to Saturday in Lake Louise, Alberta.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion, finished 13th in Saturday’s race, 1.46 seconds behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec.

Full results are here. A race replay is here.

Stuhec also won Friday, when she was 1.99 seconds ahead of Shiffrin, who then tied for 18th. Shiffrin’s goal for Saturday was to build more speed from Friday. She accomplished it.

“That’s what it’s supposed to feel like!” Shiffrin said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “So, that’s cool.’”

Shiffrin is the world’s best slalom skier and a World Cup winner in giant slalom. She added super-G to her repertoire last season (15th- and 29th-place finishes) and, this season, plans to race all disciplines (but not all races) to become one of few all-around skiers on the circuit.

Shiffrin continues to focus on her goals in slalom (staying at the top) and giant slalom (becoming a consistent podium finisher/winner). She will race downhill again this season, but she doesn’t know when.

“I don’t know how many more downhills I’ll do this year, but just doing it at all and feeling that speed is an amazing experience,” Shiffrin said, according to the U.S. Ski Team. “I’ll just try to lock that feeling away in my journal and then see what happens next time I do a downhill. … I’ll be back on the downhill circuit, but I have to keep sight of my real goals this season.”

Swiss Lara Gut was second Saturday, cutting Shiffrin’s World Cup overall standings lead to 128 points. Gut is the defending World Cup overall champion and appears to be Shiffrin’s biggest and perhaps only threat to this year’s overall crown.

Shiffrin is now guaranteed to finish the Lake Louise weekend as the World Cup overall leader, with a super-G remaining Sunday (1 p.m. ET, streaming on NBCSports.com).

With a bevy of technical races (slaloms and giant slaloms) through Jan. 10, she could hold onto the lead into the middle of the season.

Lindsey Vonn, owner of a record 18 wins at Lake Louise, is missing the annual World Cup stop in Alberta due to a broken arm from a November crash. Vonn had raced at Lake Louise each of the previous 15 seasons.

VIDEO: High-speed crash at Lake Louise downhill delays Shiffrin