Howard Siler

Howard Siler, first Jamaica Bobsled coach, passes away

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Howard Siler, the coach of the first Jamaican Olympic Bobsled Team, died at age 69 last Tuesday in Clermont, Fla., according to the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

Siler competed as a U.S. bobsledder at the 1972 and 1980 Olympics with a top finish of fifth.

He would be the inspiration for John Candy‘s role in the Disney movie “Cool Runnings” about the Jamaican Bobsled Team at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

Siler remembered the film in an interview with the Calgary Sun last year, the 25-year anniversary of those Winter Games.

“It was a good movie, and there were a couple of things that were true, and a lot that wasn’t,” he told the newspaper. “First of all, I’d never won two gold medals, and second, I wasn’t an alcoholic in Jamaica.

“There was a part in the movie where we get off the plane and go out the front door, and they go right back into the terminal to put more clothes on. Well that was the true part of the movie — the chinook wasn’t there that day, and it was cold.”

Siler also told the story of the first time the Jamaican bobsledders stepped on a rink in Lake Placid, N.Y.

“I was there the very first time they walked on ice — we put them on a hockey rink without bobsled shoes, so they were slipping and sliding and having a good time,” he said.

“Then we put some bobsled shoes on, and showed them the difference.”

Jamaica Bobsled returned to the spotlight last winter for the first time since 2002, barely qualifying for the Sochi Olympics and taking 29th out of 29 finishers in the two-man event.

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Watch NBC Olympics Thanksgiving promo video

NBC Olympics Promo
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Actress Eva Longoria narrates the newest NBC promo video for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

The 60-second spot features several athletes with their families in their home countries, including:

Simone Biles (USA, gymnastics)

David Boudia (USA, diving)

Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia, track and field)

Murilo Endres (Brazil, volleyball) and his wife Jaqueline Carvalho (Brazil, volleyball)

Dylan van Baarle (Netherlands, cycling)

Kerri Walsh Jennings (USA, beach volleyball)

The promo will air on television on Thanksgiving day towards the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“The spot reflects the crucial role that family plays in the journey of so many Olympic athletes,” said John Miller, Chief Marketing Officer of NBC Sports Group. “With the Games being one of the few family-viewing experiences left on television, we felt this message was appropriate for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.”

VIDEO: 2016 Rio Olympic Games: One year out promo

Wagner, Asada, Hanyu headline NHK Trophy in Japan; Grand Prix Final berths on the line

Ashley Wagner
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Three-time U.S. national champion Ashley Wagner looks to qualify for her fourth consecutive Grand Prix Final at this weekend’s NHK Trophy in Nagano, Japan. A medal of any color should be good enough to get her to Barcelona, but she faces a tough field.

Japan’s Mao Asada returned to competition this season and is poised to qualify for the most elite competition since the Sochi Olympics (where she finished sixth) and 2014 World Championships (which she won). Finishing on the podium would earn a berth to the final for Asada. Also in the field are Americans Mirai Nagasu and Courtney Hicks, Japan’s Satoko Miyahara, and one of Russia’s darlings from last season, Anna Pogorilaya.

Olympic champion and last year’s Grand Prix Final winner Yuzuru Hanyu, surely to be the overwhelming crowd favorite in the men’s field, will look to improve his short program results from his other Grand Prix appearance. At Skate Canada, two of his three jumping passes recceived zero points. He rallied in the free skate, finishing second behind Canada’s Patrick Chan. Chan is essentially a lock for the final, while a top three finish would seal the deal for Hanyu.

MORE: Javier Fernandez qualifies for second straight home Grand Prix Final

Other men in the hunt for Grand Prix Final berths competing in Nagano include China’s Jin Boyang and Russia’s Maxim Kovtun, who also need podium finishes to lock up spots in Barcelona. Jin’s and Kovtun’s finishes will likely dictate whether or not American Max Aaron qualifies to the final. More on that process here. No U.S. man has qualified since Jeremy Abbott did it in 2011.

MORE: Jason Brown withdraws from NHK Trophy

Reigining U.S. pairs champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim can make the Grand Prix Final with a medal in Japan.

The U.S. is sending three ice dance couples to Japan, of which two have a shot at qualifying for Barcelona. Siblings and Sochi Olympians Maia and Alex Shibutani can finish in any 1-2 combination with Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue allowing for both duos to qualify for the final. Madison Chock and Evan Bates, U.S. ice dance champions, already qualified. will stream for subscribers live coverage of men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance short programs and free skates. NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage Sunday from 4-6 p.m. ET.

Men’s short program — Friday, 2:10 a.m. ET (start order here)
Women’s short program — Friday, 5:05 a.m. ET (start order here)
Men’s free skate — Saturday, 2:30 a.m. ET
Women’s free skate — Saturday, 5:35 a.m. ET