Shaun White

Video: Shaun White talks Sochi Olympics, hair on TODAY

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The Sochi Games are more than 200 days away, but Shaun White is already consumed with the Olympics — even in his dreams.

The two-time reigning snowboard halfpipe gold medalist talked about his preparation with TODAY on Wednesday morning.

“Everything around my life right now is focused on the Olympics,” White said. “It’s a really good feeling that it’s coming up. I think I’m prepared.”

White will have to work twice as hard at his third Olympics. He’s expected to not only try to defend his halfipe crown but also go for gold in a new event, snowboard slopestyle. Let White describe it.

“It’s basically a series of jumps in one run and some rail features that you slide on,” he said. “And you make your way down and you basically do as many tricks as you can on those jumps. It’s like, you know, the new thing.”

White finished fifth in slopestyle at this year’s Winter X Games. The winner was Canadian Mark McMorris, 19, profiled in a January Rolling Stone article titled, “Is Mark McMorris the next Shaun White?” White was 19 when he won his first Olympic gold in 2006.

TODAY asked White if was one of the favorites for slopestyle gold in Sochi.

“I’m all right at it, yeah,” he said, humbly.

White was on the New York set with his new, clean-cut hairstyle. White said his previous flying tomato locks were 12 to 13 inches long. He had them cut in December for Locks of Love charity, which provides wigs for children with hair loss due to medical conditions.

“It was a tough call, but it was a good cause,” he said. “A lot of weight (gone). I can go higher now in the halfpipe.”

White also talked about how he comes up with new gravity-defying tricks.

“It’s basically tricks that are based off of other tricks,” he said. “I recently was dreaming about snowboarding. I thought of this new rotation to put on an existing trick that I already have. It’s random, mostly by mistake I’d say. You’re setting out to do something and by accident you create a new trick.”

So White’s even got the Games on his mind while he sleeps. Is he feeling the pressure?

“A little bit, yeah, but I like that,” he said. “It’s something to strive for, to live up to.”

Russian athletes to learn English before Sochi Olympics

Esther Kim, who gave her Olympic spot to best friend, dies at 40

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Esther Kim, a U.S. taekwondo athlete who gave up her Olympic spot to her injured best friend, died on Tuesday at age 40.

Kim had lost liver and kidney function and spent recent weeks hospitalized in an intensive-care unit, said Jake Stovall, a friend, former instructor and taekwondo athlete. Stovall set up a GoFundMe page to cover funeral expenses.

In May 2000, Kim forfeited the U.S. Olympic Trials flyweight final to Kay Poe, allowing her best friend to take the lone spot available on the Olympic team.

Poe, reportedly ranked No. 1 in the world at the time, dislocated her left kneecap in the previous round. The injury would have kept her from being competitive in the final.

“I was in a very unfair situation. How can you go out there and fight someone who can’t even stand up?” Kim said in 2000. “There was only one choice to be made, and that was just to forfeit and bow out.”

Poe and Kim were training partners, both coached by Kim’s dad, and friends for the previous decade growing up in Houston.

“I felt blessed, and at the same time, I almost felt, like, guilty,” she said in 2000. “I couldn’t express it any other way, but it just came out with my tears.”

The story spread among national media, from The New York Times to Sports Illustrated to Oprah Winfrey.

Then-IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch arranged for Kim to travel to Sydney, where taekwondo made its Olympic debut as a medal event. Kim watched from the stands as Poe competed and was upset in her opening match.

“She was really one of a kind larger than life kind of woman,” was posted on Poe’s public Facebook page on Tuesday, along with a photo of her with Kim.

This was one of the last times I got to see her.. She was really one of a kind larger than life kind of woman. Sending all my love to her mother and family…

Posted by Kay Poe Sheffield on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Tahiti chosen for Olympic surfing competition at 2024 Paris Games

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Paris 2024 Olympic organizers want the surfing competition to be held in Tahiti, an island in French Polynesia that is about 9,800 miles from Paris.

It would break the record for the farthest Olympic medal competition to be held outside the host. In 1956, equestrian events were moved out of Melbourne due to quarantine laws and held five months earlier in Stockholm, some 9,700 miles away.

The Paris 2024 executive board approved the site Thursday — specifically, the village of Teahupo’o — and will propose it to the IOC.

“We look forward to hearing Paris’ presentation at the IOC Executive Board in March 2020,” an IOC spokesperson said in an email when asked for comment on Paris’ choice.

Tahiti beat out other applicants Biarritz, Lacanau, Les Landes and La Torche, all part of mainland France.

“If, ever, we have two alternatives, and where one alternative gives the athletes of a particular sport more closeness to the heart of the Games and allows them to enjoy the magic and the spirit of the Games better, then in the interest of the athletes, we prefer this solution,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in June when asked about Tahiti’s interest in hosting surfing.

Surfing will debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but is not on the permanent Olympic program. Surfing was among sports added to the Paris 2024 program in June and could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics

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