Scott Blackmun
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USOC extends CEO’s contract through 2021 with option to 2024

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — In the U.S. Olympic Committee’s version of a perfect world, CEO Scott Blackmun will help the Americans bring the curtain down on the Los Angeles Olympics in 2024.

The USOC board extended Blackmun’s contract by five years, through 2021, with an option to keep him through the 2024 Games.

Chairman Larry Probst said the extension, announced Friday, was recognition of the work Blackmun has done since he got the job in 2010, but clearly there’s another factor at play here: The USOC wants to show it is stable as it tries to help Los Angeles land the 2024 Olympics.

“It seemed like a no-brainer to me and the board,” Probst said. “We’re highly interested in him leading the organization forward for the next six years, at least.”

Blackmun will work under the same terms as his current contract, which pays him nearly $980,000 a year, including bonuses.

The announcement came on the same day that Mike Krzyzewski, the coach of Duke and the USA basketball team, was on hand to deliver a speech to the U.S. Olympic Assembly. He appreciated the message being sent.

“It’s really powerful,” Krzyzewski said. “When you keep changing, then people don’t know (the culture). The neighborhood he has to negotiate, it’s very difficult. The more knowledge and more activity you’ve had in it is a good thing.”

Blackmun came into the job five years ago, after a nine-month period of tumult at the USOC that included the forced resignation of Jim Scherr as CEO, the unpopular hiring of Stephanie Streeter to replace him and, most notably, the fourth-place humiliation of Chicago in the bidding for the 2016 Olympics.

All the upheaval, combined with the USOC’s poor international reputation, hurt Chicago’s cause. Under Blackmun and Probst, the USOC has established itself as a more reliable partner worldwide.

Los Angeles is in the running for the 2024 Games against Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary. The vote is in 2017.

Blackmun’s contract runs through at least 2021, and if both sides agree, he would stay on for four years beyond that.

“He has offered terrific leadership to the organization and developed a high level or respect internationally,” Probst said.

Notes: Probst said LA 2024 chairman Casey Wasserman will be involved with the bid on a day-to-day basis but that Wasserman told the USOC board he also plans to hire a CEO. … The USOC is slimming down its operation of the training center in Chula Vista, California, hoping to redistribute some of the saved money to other sports and athletes. … Blackmun said the USOC has $15 million of the $20 million it is trying to raise to run its Safe Sport program and the nomination and governance boards were named earlier this month. … When Wasserman was 17, Probst hired him as an intern at EA Sports, where the executive-to-be was a game-tester. Probst: “If you’re 17 years old and get hired as a game tester and you get paid, you’re a pretty happy kid, and he did a great job.” … Probst said a defining moment for him came in 2012 when Thomas Bach, now the president of the International Olympic Committee, shook his hand after the USOC and IOC finally ironed out a revenue-sharing agreement that had been a sore spot for both sides for years. “He said something along the lines of, `Welcome to the Olympic movement,”‘ Probst said. “That was the highest hurdle we had to get over.”

MORE USOC: USOC CEO compares Boston 2024 to Seattle Seahawks

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross forge ahead after notable phone conversation

Kerri Walsh Jennings, April Ross
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NEW YORK — Kerri Walsh Jennings says she has no doubt she will win a fourth straight Olympic gold medal in Rio, but, after dislocating her right shoulder twice this season to require a fifth career surgery on the shoulder, she had this to say two months ago to partner April Ross, with her surgeon also present:

“You know, if you’re going to pick someone else up and play, make sure it’s somebody you picture yourself going to the Olympics with,” Ross said, recalling the summer phone call on The Net Live on Monday. “I kind of laughed, and I was like, you know I don’t really doubt us. I’m not going to make a run with somebody else. I had faith that we would make it happen.”

Walsh Jennings confirmed the conversation before a TODAY appearance on Wednesday, promoting her fourth straight Olympic partnership with Visa (with whom she made this memorable 2004 Super Bowl commercial).

Walsh Jennings, a 37-year-old mother of three, tweaked that first quote from Ross. She said, “make sure it’s somebody you picture yourself winning a gold medal with.”

Walsh Jennings dislocated her right shoulder in a match for the second time in two months on July 10 in Gstaad, Switzerland, and this time it was worse, a tear that required surgery.

Walsh Jennings didn’t immediately know when she’d need the surgery, but it was possible that she’d require it before being able to return to competition. That could have knocked out the Olympic qualifying hopes for her and the 2012 silver medalist Ross, who at the time needed at least eight more international tournament appearances by June to be eligible to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

If Walsh Jennings is unable to play in Rio, then so is Ross, unless Ross somehow played 12 total international events with another partner to be eligible.

“Had the worst case happen where I couldn’t have any more finishes, I wanted [Ross] to be taken care of,” Walsh Jennings said. “Basically, I care for her. She deserves to fight for a gold medal. If it’s not me, I wanted her to find the best substitute.”

Ross ended up finding two replacement partners, Jennifer Fopma and Lauren Fendrick, the latter with whom she’ll play at the FIVB World Tour Finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., next week.

But that’s mainly for Ross to stay sharp (and for Fendrick, too, has her partner has been injured). Walsh Jennings was able to play three more tournaments after that conversation with Ross and her surgeon, before undergoing surgery earlier this month.

She plans to return next spring, and she and Ross are in favorable shape to qualify for Rio.

Ross said the thought of finding a new, permanent partner never crossed her mind.

“The only time I would’ve thought about that is if it turned into a career-ending injury [for Walsh Jennings],” she said on The Net Live.

Walsh Jennings considered it important to have that conversation with Ross, at least in part due to what happened in 2004.

That year, Walsh Jennings and then-partner Misty May-Treanor steamrolled toward the Olympics with a 90-match winning streak. But May-Treanor suffered an abdominal injury in May 2004, played through it in June, reaggravated it and missed most of July before the Athens Olympics in August.

“She tore her ab pretty significantly,” Walsh Jennings, who played with two different partners that summer while May-Treanor healed, said Wednesday. “I had no doubt she’d be back, but the media and the outside and people who care for me were like, ‘Are you taken care of? Is [May-Treanor] coming back?’ It just put doubts in my head. That’s why I thought it was really important for April and I to stay really close in that conversation [this year].”

May-Treanor did come back, and she and Walsh Jennings didn’t drop a set en route to winning their first of three straight Olympic gold medals.

MORE BEACH VOLLEYBALL: Kerri Walsh Jennings on her Super Bowl commercial, toughest loss and more

Joshua Farris withdraws from Grand Prix figure skating events

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Joshua Farris withdrew from his Grand Prix figure skating assignments as he recovers from a concussion, U.S. Figure Skating said Friday.

“I couldn’t be more disappointed to withdraw from my Grand Prix assignments,” Farris, who has yet to resume training, said in a press release. “I am steadily healing and hope to be back on the ice as soon as possible.”

Farris, the 2013 World junior champion, took bronze at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January and finished 11th at his first senior World Championships in March.

He was scheduled to compete in Skate Canada over Halloween weekend and NHK Trophy in Japan in late November.

Jeremy Abbott, a four-time U.S. champion who finished fifth at last season’s Nationals, also said he would not compete this season.

The top U.S. men competing this season are 2015 U.S. champion Jason Brown, 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron and 2015 U.S. silver medalist Adam Rippon.

Brown and Aaron are entered in the first Grand Prix event this season, Skate America in Milwaukee from Oct. 23-25.

MORE FIGURE SKATING: Yevgeny Plushenko to miss figure skating season