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

Shaun White misses final at second Olympic qualifier

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Shaun White can’t qualify for the Olympics until mid-January.

The two-time halfpipe gold medalist missed the final at the second of four Olympic selection events in Breckenridge, Colo., on Thursday.

He was 14th in qualifying, where he needed to be top 12 to advance to Friday’s final. Full results are here. The third and fourth qualifiers are in January.

White is still in strong position to make the Olympic team after finishing second among Americans at the first qualifier last week.

The Olympic halfpipe team should include four men with the last spot available via discretionary selection by a U.S. Ski & Snowboard committee.

The Friday final in Breckenridge includes Ben Ferguson, who will wrap up the first Olympic men’s halfpipe berth if he is one of the top two Americans.

Also in the final are Sochi Olympians Danny Davis and Greg Bretz and Olympic gold and silver medalists Iouri Podladtchikov of Switzerland and Ayumu Hirano of Japan.

All of the top U.S. women qualified for the final, including 2002 Olympic champion Kelly Clark, 2006 Olympic champion Hannah Teter and the last two X Games champions, Elena Hight and Chloe Kim.

A full Breckenridge preview and broadcast schedule and qualifying standings are here.

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MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Olympic team

Candace Parker not in 2017-2020 USA Basketball national team pool

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Candace Parker was not among 29 players named to the U.S. national basketball team player pool announced Thursday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s out of 2020 Olympic contention.

Players can be added or dropped from the national team pool between now and 2020.

USA Basketball director Carol Callan was asked Thursday if Parker, who was upset at being left off the Rio Olympic team, declined an invitation and what her situation is the next four years.

“We generally don’t talk about players that aren’t here because there’s a variety of reasons why they’re not. She’s one of them,” Callan responded. “We choose not to try to speak for them. So, I would simply suggest that you ask her. Candace has been an important part of our program over the years. We talked previously about the decision when she didn’t make the Olympic roster. I just think she’s better suited to say that. I don’t want to speak for her.”

For now, the pool is headlined by four-time Olympic champions Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, who both recommitted to USA Basketball this year, one year after saying they believed Rio would be their Olympic farewells.

The pool includes every member of the Rio Olympic team except for the retired Tamika Catchings.

“The list of 29 [includes] players that were in the pool last quad from 2013-16 who want to continue,” Callan said, not mentioning Parker, who was in the pool in the last Olympic cycle.

It would not be a surprise if Parker never suits up for Team USA again after being left off the Rio roster.

The 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medalist said in May that she didn’t know if she wanted to go for the Tokyo 2020 team that will be coached by Dawn Staley, who succeeds Geno Auriemma.

Parker was also not among the 30 players who accepted invitations to a September/October national team camp. Five of her Los Angeles Sparks teammates did accept invites but none ended up attending because the team was playing in the WNBA Finals.

Staley will guide a 12-woman roster at the FIBA World Cup in September. Usually, the winner of the World Cup clinches the first Olympic basketball berth. The U.S. won the last two FIBA World Cups in 2010 and 2014.

Parker had said a primary motivation to play in Rio was that her daughter, Lailaa, then 7 years old, would have been able to watch her at the Olympics and remember it.

After missing the Rio team, Parker spoke of being caught off-guard, mad and upset. She would not commit to hypothetically being an injury replacement if one of the 12 named players had to bow out. That situation did not arise.

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U.S. women’s national basketball team player pool
Seimone Augustus
(Minnesota Lynx)
Sue Bird (Seattle Storm)
Tina Charles (New York Liberty)
Layshia Clarendon (Atlanta Dream)
Napheesa Collier (Connecticut)
Elena Delle Donne (Washington Mystics)
Skylar Diggins-Smith (Dallas Wings)
Stefanie Dolson (Chicago Sky)
Asia Durr (Louisville)
Sylvia Fowles (Minnesota Lynx)
Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury)
Tiffany Hayes (Atlanta Dream)
Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles Sparks)
Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm)
Kayla McBride (Las Vegas Aces)
Angel McCoughtry (Atlanta Dream)
Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State)
Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx)
Chiney Ogwumike (Connecticut Sun)
Nneka Ogwumike (Los Angeles Sparks)
Kelsey Plum (Las Vegas Aces)
Katie Lou Samuelson (Connecticut)
Odyssey Sims (Los Angeles Sparks)
Breanna Stewart (Seattle Storm)
Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury)
Morgan Tuck (Connecticut Sun)
Lindsay Whalen (Minnesota Lynx)
Courtney Williams (Connecticut Sun)
A’ja Wilson (South Carolina)