Katie Uhlaender

Athletes enjoy video games, basement tunnels, dental work in Olympic Villages

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SOCHI, Russia — U.S. bobsledder Dallas Robinson is talking trash, considering his dental options and biking outdoors and indoors in the days leading up to the Opening Ceremony.

That’s life in the Olympic Villages for the early arriving athletes — first dibs on video games, optional teeth cleaning and a little mischief.

“We’ve only been here a few days,” Robinson said Monday. “So I haven’t gotten in that much trouble yet.”

Robinson, who is also a U.S. Army Sergeant, made exploration a priority upon arriving in the mountain cluster at one of three Olympic Villages last week.

“I was like, hey, I heard stuff’s not done,” Robinson said. “I’m going to find stuff. And I did. In our basement, it’s completely not finished. It’s just tunnels. I was walking down there for about 30 yards with flickering lights, wires hanging down. A little worker jumped out. I think I scared him more than he scared me.”

U.S. bobsledders and skeleton sliders will spend a matter of minutes rocketing down the Sanki Sliding Center track over the next three weeks.

They’ve already spent hours and hours playing “Rambo,” a shooting game, steering-wheel and sit-down-bike racing games, pinball, pool, table tennis and Wii Olympics.

“My favorite thing to do is to beat [USA-2 bobsled teammates] Johnny Quinn and Nick Cunningham at everything,” Robinson said within earshot of Quinn. “It’s been really easy.”

When fresh air is needed, they’ve gone for team bike rides that turned into international affairs.

“It’s funny we’ll have two or three USA coats, and all of a sudden you’ll see one or two come from somewhere else, one or two come from somewhere else,” said Robinson, whose twang was complemented by a “God Bless America” silver belt buckle. “We’re trying the flying V, hitting each others’ tires. We probably rode eight miles [Sunday].”

Robinson said a group took their bikes into a media center lobby with hopes of riding up an escalator. They were swiftly kicked out.

“I don’t know what you’re allowed to do or not allowed to do,” Robinson said, pointing to his athlete credential. “They say this will get you anywhere. It didn’t get us in there. So we had to park our bikes outside, and then we wandered in.”

They found a media center McDonald’s — the restaurant had yet to open in their Olympic Village — where Robinson ordered a Big Mac, six-piece McNuggets, McFlurry, medium fries and a Coke.

“And I sat in a massage chair the whole time eating it,” said Robinson, who has poked new holes into his belt to manage a weight loss of 19 pounds this World Cup season.

Skeleton slider John Daly said he’s put in a couple of hours per day playing video games since arriving Jan. 31.

“I’m not much of a reader,” said Daly, “so I want to go play PlayStation.”

Daly was one of a number of athletes to visit an Olympic Village dentist. Having a translator helped, especially with instructions to put off any major work until after the Olympics.

“We don’t want anything drilled now,” Daly said, seeing as the biggest competition of his life is rapidly approaching.

Speaking of, Daly has watched teammate Kyle Tress break the skeleton track record three times in Wii Olympics, a possible omen for their Feb. 14-15 race for medals.

Fun and games are great — to an extent. Quinn is well versed in cycling from biking to work as a Green Bay Packers preseason wide receiver in 2008. But he drew a decent sweat in jacket weather over the weekend.

“My legs are a little tired,” he said.

Below are photos depicting Olympic Village athlete life:

J.R. Celski watches Super Bowl with Olympic champions

Kristi Yamaguchi tells Nancy Kerrigan to ‘break a leg’ on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

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Kristi Yamaguchi told Nancy Kerrigan to “break a leg” on her “Dancing with the Stars” debut, an innocent tweet between friends that generated plenty of reaction.

“So excited for you @NancyAKerrigan ! Can’t wait to see you grace that ballroom floor, break a leg! #DWTS,” was posted on Yamaguchi’s account Monday morning.

It generated more than 6,000 likes, 3,000 retweets and 1,000 replies, many referencing the horrible attack on Kerrigan before the 1994 U.S. Championships (where Kerrigan’s knee was bruised, but not broken).

The tweet conjured memories of T-shirts sold leading up to the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics with the words “Harding-Kerrigan” on the front and “Norway ’94, Break a Leg!!!” on the back, reported by major media 23 years ago.

Yamaguchi and Kerrigan shared world championships and Olympic podiums in 1991 and 1992 (Yamaguchi winning both times; Kerrigan with bronze).

They remain friends. Kerrigan said she spoke with Yamaguchi, a past “Dancing with the Stars” winner, about the experience, according to TeamUSA.org.

“I said to Kristi, ‘You’ve seen me at shows, Kris, how demanding is it?’” Kerrigan said, according to the report. “She said it’s very demanding, but you have to do it. She’s like, ‘You’ve been through worse, you have to do it, it’s such a great experience.’”

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VIDEO: Nancy Kerrigan’s first ‘Dancing with the Stars’ waltz

Pressure on Ashley Wagner at world championships

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Ashley Wagner‘s four-year plan has her peaking in 2018, not at the 2017 World Championships, but many call Wagner to carry the U.S. women at worlds in Helsinki next week.

“Next year is the year that I am, like, in it to kill,” she said. “This year is maintaining. This year is my chance to work out all of the kinks, figure out where I want to be mentally going into next year.”

Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist, is the only skater of three American women on this year’s worlds team with prior worlds experience. She is the only one ranked higher than 20th in the world this season.

Normally, figure skating is an individual sport. But next week, the top two U.S. women’s results must add up to no greater than 13 (Wagner places third, and either U.S. champion Karen Chen or U.S. bronze medalist Mariah Bell places 10th or better, for example).

If not, the U.S. will have two rather than the maximum three women’s entries at the PyeongChang Olympics. The U.S. had three spots at four of the last five Olympics.

Anything less than three in 2018 would mean the U.S. is not keeping up with world power Russia and maybe even Canada and Japan. And it becomes that much harder for Wagner and everyone else to make the Olympic team.

“I know that I have a huge role in these three spots at these world championships,” Wagner said. “I need to set this team up as good as I possibly can, so that way the pressure’s off the other girls.”

The others are the 17-year-old Chen, the surprise winner at the U.S. Championships in January, who then placed 12th at February’s Four Continents Championships, an event that doesn’t include Europeans. Chen said she suffered from nerves, a flu and foot pain caused by broken boots at Four Continents.

And Bell, who took silver at October’s Skate America behind training partner Wagner. Bell, 20, finished sixth at Four Continents at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea, where she competed with an amount of pressure she had never before felt.

Of skaters entered at worlds, Bell has the 10th-best total score this season. The skater with the 12th-best total in the worlds field is more than nine points shy of Bell. Chen comes in seeded 16th.

“The tough thing about this worlds is that we have two rookies going into a very stressful event,” Wagner said. “So these two girls are in a really tough position, and I really feel for them. It’s kind of like you have to buckle up and deal with this, and that’s like your only option.”

There is reason for optimism, should Wagner put up something close to the performance of her life from last year’s worlds, where she became the first U.S. women’s medalist in a decade.

“Success in Finland is getting onto that podium,” Wagner said.

But Wagner is nearing the end of her (so far) least impressive season in probably six years. She is seeded eighth at worlds by this season’s top international scores.

She failed to qualify for December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time since 2011. She was beaten at nationals despite longtime rival Gracie Gold underperforming.

However, Wagner’s goal at nationals wasn’t to win, but to finish in the top three to make the worlds team. She called the runner-up result “perfect.” She focused the last two months on firming up the areas where she lost points.

“Even though to some on the outside looking in, it wouldn’t look like it was the most successful season for me,” Wagner said. “I think at the end of the day this season has been exactly what I needed it to be.”

The favorite in Helsinki is clearly Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, who hasn’t lost since November 2015 and can become the first repeat world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2001.

Wagner said she hasn’t watched any of Medvedeva’s programs this season.

“The only thing that I know about is her long program music is not my favorite piece of music,” Wagner said, alluding to Medvedeva’s choice of sound from “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” a 2011 film relating to the 9/11 attacks. The music includes, at one point, the voice of George W. Bush declaring that two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center.

But Wagner was effusive of Medvedeva, the latest in a string of Russian Olympic and world champions dating to the Sochi Olympics.

“She is a set bar that everybody is chasing after, and I think in years past that bar was always changing,” Wagner said. “Now it’s one set thing I know exactly the quality of skating I have to reach, I know exactly the technical program that I have to be able to accomplish.”

Wagner, a seasoned 25 years old, noted a key point this week. She is the only active women’s skater in her class, with her length of experience, who hasn’t taken a break.

Italian Carolina Kostner is 30, but she’s competing at worlds for the first time since 2014, following two seasons off. Japan’s three-time world champion Mao Asada is 26, but she took a season off after Sochi and this year failed to make the worlds team.

Wagner reflected on her world silver medal and her three national championships. She knows they mean nothing next week.

“I have to prove myself all over again,” she said.

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NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.